Posts Tagged ‘poem’

The Oak and the Sassafras

July 9, 2018


The girl pronounced him an oak
in autumn, herself a mitten tree,
supple under his strong limbs.
Her orange hair growing up
into his iron gray.

Now fire burns in his snow;
dead limbs creak on her crown.


First published in Mostly Maine.


Autumn in Pennsylvania. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Autumn in Pennsylvania. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.


Tiny Pink Flowers: A Very Short Story in Verse

June 1, 2018


He wakes up to her scream, a jolt and his legs
kicking. He sees the pink flowered sheet
spilling over him like lava falling off the bed.
Hundreds of printed flowers falling.

He watches the fingernails of his own hand
dig deep furrows across the bottom sheet.
His hand drops over the side. The walls,
the ceiling shimmer with light.

In the doorway, a red, hard-set face with a gun.
The gun jerks. He hears the second shot, her gasp.
He sees the blue steel hole fixed in a drifting halo.
He smells gun smoke. The mattress wobbles.

Her buttocks rise up beside the bed. The top sheet
folds together as she pulls it back around her body.
She lurches forward, pink flowers trailing behind.
The hands of the gunman tremble.

The revolver extends before him, held with
both hands, still aiming. His feet are apart.
Her shoulders are bare above the sheet. Red oozes
through pink. Her voice is faint — “Bobby?”

As she turns back, the man’s face twists into grief.
The pink flowered sheet is ribboned red.
Muscles tighten in her arms and legs.
She staggers. Her eyes open. Her lips part.

From outside down the hall, a cuckoo calls three.


Copyright © 2018 by Michael B. Smetzer


Window Light. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Window Light. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Reconstructive Criticism: Not Just for Poets

May 23, 2018


When the Inquisitor comes you will be
in bed with your poems
He will summon you by banging pipes
in your dreams

His hands will knead your shoulders like clay
and he will speak as a just god 

     Who is the you of your poems?
     Why is he drowning in dreams?
     Why is he listening to stones? 

He will circumcise your excess with a pen

He will re-form your point of view
and when he leaves you will be he


First published in Mostly Maine.


At Palace Playland. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

At Palace Playland. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

A Quiet Man: Someone You May Know

May 4, 2018


He’s somewhere with you in a crowd
walking along
perhaps beside you


What the doctor gave him
turned his urine orange

If he were a braggart 

      He could startle old men in courthouse johns
      He could tell weeping women he has given them
      Believers could come to him to bathe and be

But he is a quiet man
He will piss in pop bottles
to leave on the steps 

for your children


First published in Cottonwood Review’s Open House.


Rock City in Mid 1950s - Photo by Bernie Smetzer

Rock City in mid 1950s. Photo by Bernie Smetzer

Old Man of the Road

April 27, 2018


At dusk, an old man walks by these country houses.
Sometimes, as children lie in bed, they hear
the distant crunch of his feet in gravel.  Over
and over, but muffled, of course, out on the road.
Impossible to hear except on a warm spring night
when the house is quiet and the windows open
and the summer insects are yet to be born.
Then sometimes again in Indian summer. 

I used to hear his footsteps on our road.
Old man of evening.  Old man of ragged clothing.
I imagined him walking into the dark, never stopping,
but glancing sometimes at my window, wondering
what small child lived there.


First published in Kansas Quarterly.


Remains of Farm Wagon Behind Our House - photo by Mike Smetzer

Remains of Farm Wagon Behind My Parents’ House – photo by Mike Smetzer

Blonde with Fingers

April 23, 2018


In the rain a passing car and in the car
          one blonde head
and a white hand waving. Who? I wonder.
          Who is waving?

A red car, maroon red. One blonde, smiling head.
          A waving hand,
fingers spread. Slishing north. Who’s the girl
          with that blonde head?

The rain that ripples down the street
          at the corners ripples feet.
The drops that dripple from my ears
          trickle down my underwear.

My heart is damp and soaked with care,
          but my mind can only stare
After that girl with that blonde hair
          waving those fingers in the air.


First published in Mostly Maine.


Vera Lisa on a T-Bird - photo kept by Vera Lisa (Metastasio) Smetzer

Vera Lisa on a T-Bird

Wasp on the Window Glass

April 18, 2018


I saw a wasp on the window glass today
a cold wet uncomfortable day 

The wasp hung unmoving in the cold
waiting for the sun to heat its blood 

Snappy yellow legs  Its body striped with black
glass-drawn and fresh but silent as an empty circus 

It did at times begin to clean itself
look active   come to life 

Yet it did not fly
Again it spread its legs upon the glass


First published in Cottonwood (formerly Cottonwood Review).


Waiting - photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Waiting – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Rising Above: A Poem of Spring

April 11, 2018


She admits them
opens no liquor 

Three years they’ve
digging her grave 

Now her thoughts are
thunder and rain 

Their heads are old
snags in her river 

She rises above
and floats free 

She rides her white
waters to the sea


First published in Cottonwood (formerly Cottonwood Review).



Old Orchard Beach Sky – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

The New Arrival

April 9, 2018


A handkerchief in his pocket
A breath mint in his mouth
Standing like a new rake
beside the garden display 

He might have descended from
a Polish miller or a Roman Caesar
who straddled Gaul with his legions
But he is a pair of J.C. Penney loafers
slacks by K-Mart 

The courthouse has burned down on his past
Good-bye to a somewhere homeland
Good-bye to a great grandmother
who may or may not have had
a mole on her neck like his

The old gray chest in the U-Haul
is only full of jeans
No shards of pottery
No arthritic bones


First published in Hanging Loose.


Restricted Bridge - photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Restricted Bridge – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.


Two Approaches to the Lake: A Poem for Early Spring

April 4, 2018


At sunrise
the last snow withdraws its fog
into the fissures
and braces among the rocks 

In the lake below


River falls from sky
and boils in the pool
Brown sinews slip through
rocks and foam 

sunflames shudder
on deep water
A skiff sets out
along the shore


First published in Kennebec.


Mountain Lake in Winter - photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Mountain Lake in Winter – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.