Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

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

Country Fable

June 18, 2017


A matronly pheasant walks into a field
and sees four cows looking down a well.

Flying up on a cow, she peers down at
cock pheasant looking up from the bottom.

“Good!” she says, “Let him stay there!
He can check out the well’s bottom for a change.”

“Know what you mean,” sighs one cow.
“Last week our bull fell in the cistern.”

“Bet he was ugly! Did you get help?”
“Noooo,” answers the cow. “He’s still there.”

“Been sweet and peaceful,” says another cow,
chewing cud, “except for the stink.”

“Hey!” says a third cow, “Come share our corn.
Good shelled corn! Farmer’s wife don’t care.”

“But the farmer!” cries the pheasant, alarmed.
“Fell in the silo,” say all the cows.


Copyright © 2017 by Michael B. Smetzer

Bernie Smetzer and the chickens

Dad with his Chickens


I Leave at Dusk under Threat of Rain

June 4, 2017


Behind me, the disordered duplex,
our tiny yard, its iron fence.
And my wife, who is also leaving,
for someplace we have never been
and will never be together.

Walking out is free air and adventure.
Only when my feet stop am I afraid.

I am catching the bus to my future.
Later, sitting for days as the bus
moves through rain and sun and rain,
my eyes bump down rows of wary faces,
our lips pursed, sour as our feet.


Copyright © 2017 by Michael B. Smetzer

Swimmers, Acrylic Painting on wood by Mike Smetzer

Swimmers, Acrylic Painting on wood by Mike Smetzer

Mr. Richards and Cora

May 26, 2017


A Sunday couple in a front pew.
Mr. Richards sat full face to the sermon,
aware of the girls batting eyelashes
toward his designer collars,
his careful graying hair. He walked
among us, distant and slightly amused.
Cora paled beside him, forgotten,
like some pressed flower,
like a plaque honoring a career goal
he once set and met.

With colleagues at his club,
he tasted the steward’s Beaujolais,
the chef’s steak bordelaise,
its flavor rich from the marinade,
Crème brûlée with his evening coffee.
In the kitchen at home she
crumbled cornbread into beans,
her mother’s scarf tightened
around her forehead
like a truss.

When Cora visited his office,
Mr. Richards asked her to type.
She settled in, like an oyster
growing pearls. She opened
the clogged arteries of his files,
warmed his clerks and his clients
to smiles. Now she is the candle
at his corporate lunch,
its honey glow, the halo
he always wanted for his crown.


Copyright © 2017 by Michael B. Smetzer

Swimmers, painting by Mike Smetzer

Joe Bought a Truck

May 24, 2017


Joe’s new truck was one tall ride!
Ram 1500 Sport.
V-8, 8-speed transmission.
Blue-streak-pearlcoat exterior.
Brand new!
With the biggest mud tires the dealer could fit.

We could never afford a wonder like that.
But my brother Joe went down to Foxwoods
and he won. He won big!
So, being a man, and being single,
he bought this truck.

I said, “You could have bought
a lot of ho’s with that money.”
“Think harder, Bro,” he said.
“I bought the Ram.
Now the sluts will jump in for free.
I can drive the girls and the truck!”

To begin with Joe couldn’t really handle
the girls or the truck.
His ego was just this pale little thing
about the size of a baby mouse.
It slept quietly inside a Big Mac wrapper
stuffed between our seats.

What with all the near collisions,
I can’t say I even noticed it the first two days.
But Joe was right about the sluts.
His best play was to park the Ram near
where some muffins in tights would pass.

Then chat them up from inside the cab.
He looked like a cowboy, as long as he
didn’t try to move the truck.
Soon he was helping girls into the cab
and taking them for rides.

He got better at driving and chatting,
and sometimes,
if the girl didn’t know him,
he scored!
Joe’s ego was growing up now
and growing some thick hair
along with a visible pair of balls.

Joe had to take it out of the wrapper
and put it in the toolbox behind his seat.
Not like he had any tools.
By this time, I was no longer welcome,
except when we drove to work.

Still, when he needed recovery time
or when I was the one with gas money,
I got to ride along on his outings.
Sitting in that Ram was as near ecstasy
as you can get without a dealer.

The guys had to look up to us
‘cause we were cruising way above
their silly little rides.
When the sluts saw our stuff,
they couldn’t help giving
their booty a twerk or two.
Sweet ride! Sweet life!

Soon Joe really got to be the man.
He’d drive up next to one of our buds
lining up a slut in a Ranger or something.
The girl would look up
at Joe in his powerful Ram,
and that guy’s junk was toast!

Joe loved it!
But every time he pulled that stunt
his ego swelled inside the toolbox
and it wanted more.
I could hear it behind the seats, mumbling
and pounding on the inside of the box.

Then it started to talk,
and it talked loud!
Joe had to quiet it down with Captain Morgan
before he could pick up a slut.
Still, Joe was the man.

A lot of girlfriends took a ride in Joe’s Ram,
while their guys were at work.
Joe turned a bucket full of promise rings green.
Pretty soon none of our old buds would talk to us,
and Joe had to park next to the guard house at work.

One night Joe forgot to latch the toolbox.
His ego got loose in the cab.
By morning it had shed hair all over
and grown too big to get back in the box.
We had to let it ride between us
and try to pass it off as a lab.
Smelled like a badger!

With his ego out, Joe had to give up
poaching tights, except for Goths,
but he still loved to drive his Ram up beside
some guy with a slut.

Soon Joe’s ego needed more room in the cab.
Joe could hardly shift.
I was hanging out the passenger window.
People looked at us funny.
No one thought it was a lab.
More like a gorilla!

Even our family stopped talking to us.
And Joe’s ego just kept growing.
We moved it into the truck bed.
But we still couldn’t relax.
Joe’s ego growled and snapped
at us through the sliding window.
Couldn’t even pass it off as a bear!

Now when we pulled up next to a couple,
the girl would look up with big-eyed horror
at the three of us looking down.
Then she’d roll her window up.

Good thing we had heavy duty springs.
Joe liked this new power he had over people
and his ego kept growing.
The truck started banging at every dip in the road.

In the end, Joe’s ego took to leaning
against the tailgate,
which threw off the truck’s balance.
Joe could hardly steer.
The weight of all that ego was too much,
and Joe lost control.

It was early December and raining ice water.
The Ram flipped on a curve.
We found ourselves upside down in a ditch
with six feet of mud-flavored slushy over our heads.
We straight out lost the Ram
‘cause Joe could only afford liability.

Both of us ended up in the hospital
with cuts, bruises and serious hypothermia.
And we collected buckets full of towing bills,
ambulance bills, medical bills.
We couldn’t pay any of it!

Even worse, since we had lost our friends,
we had no way to get to work to make money,
except to walk!

On the other hand, we also lost Joe’s ego.
It shriveled up in that ice water like our testicles,
and it drowned right there under that Ram!
So, yeah, I guess we look like two losers
walking to work every day in the snow.
But at least we got back some peace of mind.


Copyright © 2017 by Michael B. Smetzer

Kitchenette with Cable

May 17, 2017


All night, mindful and listening,
I kneel before the mute TV’s light,
contemplating the snow between channels,
my lips reciting the mantra of my Frigidaire.
Three states away, you are indexing
ten years of your diaries for my sins,
cropping my image from family albums,
stacking all I left for the Salvation van.

Passing trucks tremble my walls to ecstasy.
Oh look outside!
Illuminated waste bins wake up enlightened,
beneath long-necked halogen lights,
hopeful young Buddhas, shining compassion!
compassion! compassion!
down dreary interstate byways.

I know I failed. I am sorry!
I want to come home!
I know you know I will fail again.
The egoist sage Yang Chu
would not pluck a hair
to save his troubled world.
I offer all my hair to you tonight
in this kitchenette with cable.

Copyright © 2017 by Michael B. Smetzer

A Man Who Told the Truth: 5 Poems

May 25, 2010


These revised poems Copyright © 2010 by Michael Smetzer


A Quiet Man
What I ate for supper turned my urine orange.
If I were a braggart:
      I could startle old men in courthouse johns.
      I could tell weeping women I had given them
      Believers could come to me to bathe and be
But I am a quiet man.
I will piss in pop bottles to leave on the steps
for your children.

(first published in Cottonwood Review’s Open House)


The New Arrival
A green flag 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 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)
My Last Race
I reached the finish before the others,
but my wife was not looking,
my son was in the john.
Suddenly the stretched line
was my only dimension,
and I moved along that line
like a bead along a string.
Runners broke through
like sparks across a tunnel
I could never leave.
(first published in Cottonwood Review)
You Tell Me You Love a Wife Beater
Divorced Three Times
The sabre 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 sabre above the sofa.
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 sabre vanished from the wall.
Out back you see 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)
A Man Who Told the Truth
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)

Men in Boxes: 4 Poetic Parables

May 17, 2010
These revised poems Copyright © 2010 by Michael Smetzer
A Naked Man
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)


 The Wart
When you wake up in the morning,
        your nose itches.
When you look in the mirror,
        you see a wart.
Everywhere you go people glance quickly
        and look sick.
You try to hide it with your hand,
but every time you touch it
        it grows.
So you go to the doctor and he cuts
        it off.
In a week it has grown back,
You wear a band-aid over your nose.
People look at you like a sewer.
Your lover could not stand the band-aid
        and has left town.
The note saying good-bye is written
        to your wart.
No one can remember your name.
You are “the man with the wart,” “the wart man,”
or simply “the wart.”
Pranksters leave fresh lemons on your door.
Nothing you try takes it off.
The wart covers all your nose.
Women scream.
Children call you “monster.”
You only go out at night.
It spreads around your eyes.
It has broken up into many scaly lumps.
A plastic surgeon cuts away your face,
but the roots have reached into your brain.
Warts come up along the edges of the plastic.
They are filling in your ears.
A preacher tells you to pray.
You take his hands and are born again
        to Jesus.
The next day his hands sprout warts.
He does not return.
One morning you are blind.
Warts are growing on your eyes.
You can no longer hear,
so you lie in bed and dream.
In your dream you are a handsome knight.
A princess kisses you are her lips
        burst out in warts.
You kiss her and all your warts pass
        onto her body.
When you wake up you are well.
Only dry husks are scattered in your bed.
You are weak but joyful.
At noon your lover returns
covered with warts.
She has come back to embrace you. 

(first published in Cottonwood Review)


A Man With Boxes
In an old box a man is writing your name
        with a crayon.
He will put his old shoes in the box
        and close the lid.
At supper your food will taste of sweat
        and leather.
At night you will be afraid of the dark,
and by day you will gasp for air.
You will walk in your sleep
and wake to find yourself in a strange city.
You will remember things someone else forgot,
and your thoughts will come like postcards
        in an unknown tongue.
One hot day a man will stop you.
His smell will be warm and close.
You will melt into his box.
Somewhere outside a man is cashing checks
        in your name.
He wears new shoes.
Under his arms – old boxes. 

(first published in West Branch)


 Reconstructive Criticism
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 shoulder 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)

Smetzer Graves Near Clinton, Kansas

May 13, 2010


This revised poem Copyright © 2010 by Michael Smetzer


To have lived a decade here
before I found these names:
        Edith Smetzer
        Daugh. of D. & E. Smetzer
        Died 1886
        Aged 14 days
her infant bones the earliest in the churchyard
        John Smetzer
        Died June 18, 1892
        Aged 74 years, 5 months, 15 days
at 61 he had been the oldest of the Ohio Smetzers
who traveled west to Kansas
and disappeared.
These things I have heard of my great great uncle:
        that he was illiterate,
        that he never married,
        that he was a hired man,
        that he was the only man of his family
                never to own land.
And I understood that he moved westward
        across the land
like a lateral root
hardly disturbing the leaves.
So here you ended, old uncle,
your plot open to the sky,
buried more deeply in your faint depression
        of earth
than ever you plowed.
It is evening.
Light blue still marks the western edge,
but the sky above is growing higher, thinning,
falling back through darker blues
to the blackness behind the stars.
And you, uncle, are still thinning
        in your darkness,
still dissolving into this place I’ve come to.
The darkness dissolves my family name
and leaves me open to a field of stones.
Years from now, my great nephew’s children
        may hear of me
        that I never married
        that I worked for wages,
        that I never owned land.
And I would like them to understand
that I was an illiterate of the earth,
as transient in my time as John in his,
as transient really as Edith there,
who never knew the soil
before it closed her in.

(first published in Kansas Quarterly)