Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Greatness Passed Us By

October 26, 2018

 

We chased the literary world in our youth,
confident, a pack of beagles, legs pumping,
tails whipping, heads low and sniffing,
or muzzles up and howling in the wind.

We chased, but greatness passed us by,
aloof, impenetrable as an Abrams tank.
We bayed and nipped at its grinding tracks,
then fell back, silenced in its wake.

The cadre of Accepted Writers moved on.
Most of my peers left the pack long ago
for a dog’s life and a home, or departed
to sleep in the warmth of God’s hearth.

But this old hound is chasing still,
limping along behind the eager pups,
watching for an open hatch, for that
moment when I might yet jump in.

 

Copyright © 2018 by Michael B. Smetzer

 

Stream through an Autumn Woods. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Stream through an Autumn Woods. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Advertisements

The Great Art Exhibition

October 19, 2018

 

Many years ago, a young man with a love of painting
traveled to The Great Art Exhibition held annually
in the largest city of a country much like our own.

The show was filled by painting in a Classical style.
He loved the proportions and eloquence of the work
and stayed in the city visiting the show until it closed.

On returning home, the artist set up an easel in his room.
For twenty years he worked to perfect his vision.
His paintings were wonderful. The works of his heart.

When he was ready, he took his paintings to the jury
that decided what to allow into each year’s exhibition.
But all the paintings he saw around him were Romantic.

The judges reviewed his work. “Classical painting!
We don’t want Classical art. Take this crap away!”
The painter went home weeping. “My paintings failed.”

After a few days, he decided to try Romantic painting.
“If I show the judges I can paint the art they want,
they might let my paintings into the Great Exhibition.”

He took twenty years to perfect his Romantic style.
“These paintings,” he thought, “are not works of my heart,
but they are bold and dramatic. And they are beautiful.”

He went to the jury with new paintings and new hopes.
When he got there he found the old judges were gone.
The paintings he saw around him were all Realistic.

The new judges reviewed his work. “Romantic painting!
We don’t want Romantic art. Take this crap away!”
And so he went home again, weeping. “I have failed.”

Now an old man, the artist gave away his paintings
to farmers and villagers to hang in their cottages.
He gave away his paints and brushes, and his easel.

For another twenty years the painter lived on in grief.
Then, after he died, an art dealer discovered his work.
The dealer bought all of his Classical paintings

and took them to the jury for The Great Art Exhibition.
The new judges wanted Neoclassical art. “Wonderful!”
they said. “Here is the grandfather of our movement!”

So they hung the dead artist’s work at the front
of Exhibition Hall. “Such promise this painter had.”
They all sighed. “A pity he never painted more!”

 

Copyright © 2018 by Michael B. Smetzer

 

Beauty in the Field. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Beauty in the Field. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Report to the Air: A New Free Kindle Book

October 14, 2018

My new book Report to the Air: Poems of Loss & Change has just been published on Kindle. This is a book about home. It is also about loss and change and about life in the rural Midwest.

The book consists of fifteen poems supported by photographs & artwork. The poems included here were published in earlier versions in Cincinnati Poetry Review, Cottonwood, Hanging Loose, Kansas Quarterly, Little Balkans Review, Tellus, West Branch, and Wind. The photographs included were taken by Vera Lisa Smetzer, Bernie Smetzer and Viola Smetzer. The paintings and the chip mosaic are my own.

Report to the Air is available for free on Kindle for two days, October 14 & 15. You do not need a Kindle machine. You can view it on PC, Mac, or phone.

 

Report to the Air by Mike Smetzer - cover

 

The Judgment Comes

October 12, 2018

 

I see an airy spinner smiling down
from high windows in the clouds,
hand spinning from bags of wool.

Patiently she spins her cops of yarn,
each cop the life of a soul below.
Her weighted spindles whirl the sky.

She spins out homespun strands
from unwashed and poorly carded wool.
Sometimes fat, sometimes thin.

Thin sometimes to a single hair.
Full spindles she plays out from her sill,
airy worms squirming into the wind.

Strands dangle and dance, fray and knot,
tangle together with wind-borne leaves,
fouled in life’s chaos of indirection.

Beginnings too frayed to thread.
Strands too loose, too frail to work,
too knotted ever to set free again.

At times, she stops, studies her work
and suddenly snips a strand from its hook.
She smiles as the wind bears it away.

For us below, the judgment comes
without warning, without trial,
as when a child, alone in a far field,

poking for hours in the grass,
looks up to black clouds
and lightning in his hair.

 

Copyright © 2018 by Michael B. Smetzer

 

Field before Mountain. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Field before Mountain. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

I’m Not Sleeping in the Snow 

October 1, 2018

 

It’s time to blow out the nose
and breathe about the yard
It’s October and the air draws in cold 

My fingers untangle my hair
Two hairy arms roll sleep from my eyes
It’s time to rise up from the weeds

Squirrels have poked walnuts up my ass
Wasps crawled under me for the winter
Sow bugs are settled in my ears

It is time for a cold bath
My beard is as ragged as the trees


First published in
Cottonwood Review.

 

Winter Trees with Birds. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Winter Trees with Birds. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

I Dream My Mother Enrolls in Freshman Lit.

September 14, 2018

 

“Why,” I ask, “did Cather superimpose
a plow on the face of the sun?” 

But the sullen guy I call on won’t talk
and you   Mother   you sit next to him
in the front row
smiling

“No doubt she had her reasons” you reply 

“Could the plow symbolize
domestication of the prairie?
Could the sun represent life?”

“Oh, I doubt that, Dear
Now take your words outside”

 

(first published in Taurus)

 

The Teacher and His Mom. Photo by Bernie Smetzer.

The Teacher and His Mom. Photo by Bernie Smetzer.

He Ain’t Barking at the Clouds

September 7, 2018

 

Squirrel’s not happy   He’s
flipping his tail
up and down   He wants to
punch someone out
Look out!   Squirrel’s gone
squirrelly   He’s mad I
tell you   Stay clear!

Keep out of squirrel’s
mulberry tree   Keep away
from his lady   Shit!
This ain’t no time to
go out on a limb

 

First published in Graduate Newspaper, Univ. of Kansas.

 

Checking Out the Noisy Neighbor. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Checking Out the Noisy Neighbor. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Among the Not Included (for anyone who has published an anthology)

August 27, 2018

 

Among the not included
is an angry poet from Somewhere, Kansas
He is stomping on the fields
and bellowing in the clouds
The crackling volts from his eyes
have filled the sky with imminent lightning
Eternal darkness is his shadow
and H-bombs explode in his swinging fists
Sound the alarm from the silos of Kansas!
He is striding out over the hills
It is time publishers and editors left town
for printers to close up their shops
and go to lettering tombstones
The very Thunderhead Poet of the Prairie
is moving in from the west
Editorial advisors had best not be found

 

First published in Graduate Newspaper, Univ. of Kansas.

 

Granddad Smetzer & Frank Aust - The Hog Pays for Its Feed. Family photo.

When the editor’s work is done, the critics’ work begins. (Smetzer family photo. Frank Aust & Granddad.)

You Say You Love a Wife Beater Divorced Three Times

August 20, 2018

 

The saber still rises through the air
in the memory of his third wife
as he chases her from their house
and two blocks down the street.

There he collapsed and you found him,
crying and impotent,
a little boy with a thin wet beard.
So you took him home.

You hung his saber as a decoration
above your sofa.
Each night you rocked and sang
him to sleep.

But he has grown stronger
and he no longer cries and pleads.
He pushes you out of your bed.
Shouts summon you in the night.

One day you return to find
the saber vanished from the wall.
Out back you watch him practice
on the saplings in your yard.

Once a woman who had lost her child
found a baby wolf and brought it home.
She didn’t think of pain
until the teeth began to nurse.

  

First published in Kansas Quarterly.

 

Strangler Vine in Onset, MA. Family Photo from Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Strangler Vine in Onset, MA. Family Photo from Vera Lisa Smetzer.

A Man Who Told the Truth

August 13, 2018


A man who told the truth
wouldn’t say much
He’d sit all day and watch his life
Sometimes he’d pick up a stick
and break it
Maybe he would sit on a log
and watch the oaks
or on a park bench in some quiet town
He might walk around some city
stepping over cracks 

It wouldn’t really matter
If he were to tell the truth
what could he say?
That spring leaves are green
and winter leaves are brown?
That children run in circles
while old men walk straight lines?
That cities are full of cracks?

 

First published in Wind.

 

Dad at the South Rim, 1950's. Sometimes the most important thing about a scenic wonder like the Grand Canyon is just a little bit of shade. Photo by Viola Smetzer.

Dad at the South Rim, 1950’s. Sometimes the most important thing about a scenic wonder like the Grand Canyon is just a little bit of shade.