Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Apple Trees

July 19, 2017

 

Suicide is private.
Your students and teachers
are not invited.
You are alone in an old truck
with the light on
and the needle touching your vein,
and you don’t want to die,
and the needle depresses your skin.
You think of someone you loved
as the ripple runs up your arm
and you want to cry.
You want your friends to bleed.

In the turning of the world,
you smell gasoline and dust,
and somewhere
apple trees

 

First published in Kansas Quarterly.

 

"Moon Night" - acrylic painting on wood by Mike Smetzer

“Moon Night” – acrylic painting on wood by Mike Smetzer

Prairie Summer

July 16, 2017

 

Always under the heavy sun there is time.
You look around and nothing has changed.
The hills are more steady than the heart.

Clouds move for days across the sky,
like strangers down the highway
looking for some other place.

 

First published in Little Balkans Review

 

Discussion

I lived for over a decade in Kansas, leaving and coming back twice. It is as much home to me as the Valparaiso Moraine in Indiana, where I grew up. The steadiness and simplicity resonate in me. Human culture and opportunity are weak on the plains, but the land is strong. Old hills make reassuring neighbors. The Rocky Mountains are much more exciting, but they can be entirely too adolescent and rowdy.

 

"Sunset" squared - Acrylic Painting on Wood by Mike Smetzer

“Sunset” – Acrylic Painting on Wood by Mike Smetzer

Bill Acres Explains His Life

July 14, 2017

 

It’s better to be drunk and happy.
When I’m down I miss those early summer leaves.
I don’t feel that off-white warmth of concrete
in the sun.

I don’t see nothing sober.
I just smell my own dirty toes.
I don’t see that rich Kansas soil.
I don’t see those concrete slabs lined out
     fallen dominoes
          all the way to the park.

Hey!  Those black and white bird droppings are
a clue to life.
They say, “Bill,  look up!  You’ll see what’s
coming down.”
But it can’t kill me.
I wipe it off and laugh.

 

Copyright © 2017 by Michael B. Smetzer
An earlier version of this poem was first published in Cottonwood (formerly Cottonwood Review ).

 

Discussion

Most of us know mean drunks, sad drunks, and happy drunks. Moralists tell us getting drunk at all is bad. We should face our life soberly and responsibly no matter how it makes us feel.

I don’t advocate getting drunk. But the man I’m calling Bill was not strong enough to face his memories and feelings sober. Drinking gave him some time to be happy. Buddhists believe it can take many lives for a soul to reach enlightenment. Few of us are going to make it this time around.

 

Detail from "Sunset" - Acrylic Painting on Wood by Mike Smetzer

Detail from “Sunset” – Acrylic Painting on Wood by Mike Smetzer

A Love Poem

July 12, 2017

 

As serious as a colony of bees
to do the Queen’s bidding,
we gather berries wild and fresh.
You won’t let the dog out
of the car for fear she will pee
where we might pick, you want
nothing to spoil your dreams
of dessert tonight.
It is tonight I think of,
under this inhospitable sun
offering myself as a feast
for Maine black flies.
After supper, you’ll add
Alizarin Crimson to your
watercolor painting.
I’ll write a strawberry poem.
We’ll walk the dog and race her
home to the front door.
Later as moonlight shares
our bed, I’ll know you
enjoyed your strawberries,
know this day has made you happy.
I’ll touch you gently as you sleep,
close my eyes and sigh.

 

First published in Echoes Magazine.

Vera Lisa Smetzer on Steps

Vera Lisa Smetzer on Steps

A Naked Man

July 9, 2017

 

A naked man is standing in my yard
He is staring in my window trying
to see my clothes
When I pass the window
I must crawl below the sill

He will not go away
When I call the police no one answers

Yesterday he saw me dressed for work
My dress shirt and tie were exposed
His gaze ravaged my slacks
That night he saw my T-shirt and jeans
I am afraid to take out my laundry

In the morning I will not raise the blinds
until I take off my clothes

 

First published in Poetry Now (not by either of the current magazines by that name, but the one that existed in California in the 1970’s).

 

Discussion

I did not write this poem because I am a nudist, but because I am not. It seems I have spent my life like a flea hiding inside my clothes. Clothes give us a place to hide our little lives. A flea who comes out of hiding gets squished. A flea that stays hidden survives. Of course, other people might not see me as a flea. They might see me as a very fine naked gentleman. But to find out I must risk getting squished.

No punctuation   No clothes

 

Detail from "Sunset" - Acrylic Painting on Wood by Mike Smetzer

Detail from “Sunset” – Acrylic Painting on Wood by Mike Smetzer

New Life on an Old Farm

July 5, 2017

 

Ivy pushes asphalt shingles apart,
cascading from an outhouse roof.

Aphids suckle the last dangling limbs
of broken and heart-rotten willows.

Maggots infest a stray cat’s sores,
its breathing heavy in the weeds.

New hungers crowd over the earth,
churning stale air with eddies of wings.

 

 

Copyright © 2017 by Michael B. Smetzer

Detail from "Moon Night" - acrylic painting on wood by Mike Smetzer

Detail from “Moon Night” – acrylic painting on wood by Mike Smetzer

Circling Back

June 30, 2017

 

A long road under thunder.

Deer alert among cattle.
A fox sidling through clear-cut.

Then white clouds shadowing corn.
The grassy in-road through fields.

Cracked melons in the garden weeds.
Toadstools rotting by the barn.

*

Circling back, and back.

A hike through mud under snow.
Then the steep path of loose stones

up through a patch of wintering rye
to the window watched only in memory.

New dogs growl from the gate.
Loud, strange voices shriek from the barn.

 

Copyright © 2017 by Michael B. Smetzer
An earlier version was first published in 2014 by Off the Coast.

Woods Road in Missouri - photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

Woods Road in Missouri – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

Spirit Door

June 29, 2017

 

Our north door leads out at night
to a world of darkness and stars.
Our north door leads in by day
to dankness and shadows. No sun,
no moon looks through a north door.

Our north door is cold, dark, hidden.
The air outside is an ear listening.
We meet what knocks with care.
A stick insect rocking on the screen
may hunger with a grandfather’s eyes.

 

Copyright © 2017 by Michael B. Smetzer

Detail from "Moon Night" - acrylic painting on wood by Mike Smetzer

Detail from “Moon Night” – acrylic painting on wood by Mike Smetzer

Strange New Alchemy

June 26, 2017

 

Strange New Alchemy by Vera Lisa Smetzer

 

Copyright 2017 by Alvera Lisa Smetzer

The Widow Battinelli

June 19, 2017

 

Father Lucarelli consoles me, my speech
falters. Black veiled ladies bring by a meal,

offer to pray with me for his soul, to beseech
God. I tear their prayer card as I kneel

next to Cosmo’s photograph on a pool of lace.
At night, I open the urn by the bed,

scoop cold ashes to smooth across my face.
Our cat circles and cries for the dead,

the familiar lap in the empty chair.
Cosmo’s silver watch beats distressed,

the weight of sixty years I bear.
Coarse links chafe against my breast.

Pregare Dio!” the black veils drone.
My faith gone dry as ash and bone.

 

Copyright © 2017 by Alvera Lisa Smetzer

Angel of Strength - photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

Strength – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer