Posts Tagged ‘poem’

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.

Going Flat in Bowling Green, Ohio

August 6, 2018

 

“Flatness has a leveling effect,” I said.
“This horizon thins you.
No mountains lift your eyes.
No valleys drop the ground from under you.
Summer melts you over like a candle in the sun.
Then winter freezes you flat with level snow.” 

“Or flatness attracts flatness,” Ann said.
“Eagles nest in the mountains.
Whales sound the ocean deep.
But buzzards flock to Hinckley,
and potato cakes come here.” 

Dan came back from Toledo.
“If it weren’t for friction,” he said,
“you could slap a puck from here to Lake Erie
without finding a hill to stop it
or a natural dip it could fall in.”

 

First published in Red Rock.

 

Ma & Pa Smetzer arrive in Bowling Green, Ohio, from Wichita, Kansas. Flatness to flatness. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Ma & Pa Kettle Smetzer arrive in Bowling Green, Ohio, from Wichita, Kansas. flatness to flatness. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

The Milk House

July 30, 2018

 

The stones are crawling from their mortar
to settle like old farmers in the clay 

Their fields have sprouted puffball houses
Red flags ripen in the orchard

 

First published in Tellus.

 

Family Photo from Bernie Smetzer

Family Photo from Bernie Smetzer

The Old Farmer

July 27, 2018

 

He was lying like a twig in the hay
the old farmer
Dad and I raised him, each on a side
and carried him to his kitchen door 

There, at the top of the steps, we danced
trying to enter the narrow passage
His legs going separate ways
waved apart before us 

The speechless anger in his eyes
was all that age had left
of the dignity of living on his land

 

First published in Cottonwood.

 

Remains of a Farm Wagon Behind Our House. Photo by Mike Smetzer

Remains of a Farm Wagon Behind Our House. Photo by Mike Smetzer

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

thinking 

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
            disease
      Believers could come to him to bathe and be
            healed 

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