Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

Rising Above: A Poem of Spring

April 11, 2018

  

She admits them
but 
opens no liquor 

Three years they’ve
been 
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).

 

OOB Sky

Old Orchard Beach Sky – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

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Family Graves near Clinton, Kansas

March 28, 2018

 

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
to travel west to Kansas
and disappear.

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 twilight 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.

 

Discussion

This poem was first published when I was 39 and an aging bachelor. Much has changed since, including my knowledge of John’s life. “Smetzer Graves” would make poor genealogy today. Fortunately it is not a genealogy or a biography, but a poem.

Poets and fiction writers often start out writing about themselves, people close to them, and their feelings. But no matter what grammatical person a poem or story uses, in the end it turns out to be about a much larger “us.”

 

My great grandfather Michael Smetzer and an unindentified man.

My great grandfather Michael Smetzer and an unindentified man.

After Failing at Sex I Dream of Garage Doors Opening

March 12, 2018

 

Returning apologetic with tacos
I get out of my car and pause outside
our garage door in the night 

The touch of my finger opens the door
The touch of my finger closes the door
and opens it again 

I am opening and closing our garage door! 

Spotlights whip across the sky
Orion dances 

And all the garage doors in our town
are opening and closing together

 

First published in Platte Valley Review.

 

Mike's Master Garden! - photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Mike’s Master Garden! – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

The Wart: A Fairy Tale & a Dream

March 2, 2018

 

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 hide it with your hand, but it grows.

So you go to the doctor and he cuts it off.
In a week it has grown back, larger.

You wear a band-aid over your nose.
People look at you like a sewer.

Your lover cannot stand the band-aid and leaves town.
The note saying good-bye is written to your wart.

No one remembers your name. You are “the man
with the wart,” “the wart man,” 
or simply “The Wart.”

Your neighbor hangs rings of garlic above his 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.

The wart breaks up into many scaly lumps.
They spread around your eyes.

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 visits you and 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 and 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 (formerly Cottonwood Review).

 

Angel with the Book - photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Angel with the Book – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

My Last Race

February 28, 2018

 

I reached the finish before the others
but my son was not looking,
my wife was in the john.

Then the line stretched into my only dimension,
and I moved sideways 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 (formerly Cottonwood Review).

 

"Old Shoes 2" - photo by Mike Smetzer

“Old Shoes 2” – photo by Mike Smetzer

Second Wife

February 21, 2018

 

The bride greets her husband’s children
at their door

The husband hands each child a lily
He hands the bride hard candy
He folds his arms as they exchange
these gifts

The wife will make dinner
while the children play
The children will wash dishes
while the wife sews

 

First published in Mostly Maine.

 

Fenced Yards - photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Fenced Yards – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Her Brother’s Debt

February 19, 2018

 

Owing his widowed foreman a great debt,
the brother brought his sister overseas.
She came mute, her thoughts folded
     in her bags.
At breakfast she listened like a table
     to their sounds. 

She married with his dishes in the sink. 

She has unleashed the foreman’s toddler
     from the line.
She has taught the foreman’s son to sing,
his oldest daughter to braid her hair,

and the foreman to snore gently
through her dreams.

 

First published in Chants.

 

Dreams - photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Dreams – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Breathing: A Poem for Saint Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2018

 

An animal sleeps beside me in the dark
Its breathing swells the sheets
It turns and nuzzles the pillow
Then the rhythm resumes
When I take its paw the fingers close
We breathe into the night

 

 First published in Cottonwood (formerly Cottonwood Review).

photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer. Bride & Groom at the Goddard Mansion in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

Suddenly They Appeared – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer. Bride & Groom at the Goddard Mansion in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

 

 

Simple Valentines from the 1930s

February 12, 2018

As Valentine’s day approaches, I thought I’d share these vintage valentines. My mother, Viola Smetzer, saved them from her school days in the 1930s until her death in 1998. Most of the ones in this post are fairly simple. They are either flat or folded like most cards. I have captured them with a scanner. In a following post I hope to present valentines that open up to three dimensions. Those, of course, require a camera and are trickier to set up.

I find a sweet but rough-hewn innocence in these cards. Although these cards are clearly Americana, it is interesting that many were printed in Germany.

Valentine from Bellamy - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from Bellamy

Valentine from Vivian 2 - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from Vivian 2

 

Valentine from James - kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from James. The canoe slides forward.

 

Valentine from Lenorah 1 - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from Lenorah 1

Valentine from Lenorah 1 inside - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from Lenorah 1 inside

 

 

 

 

 

Valentine from Lenorah 1 back - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from Lenorah 1 back

 

Valentine from Virginia - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from Virginia

 

Valentine from Dorothy 2 - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from Dorothy 2

Valentine from Dorothy 2 inside - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from Dorothy 2 inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valentine from Don, Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from Don

 

Valentine from Virginia 2 - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from Virginia 2

Valentine from Clista - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from Clista

 

Valentine from Dorothy, Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from Dorothy

 

Valentine from Kathryn - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from Kathryn

Valentine from Kathryn inside - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from Kathryn inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valentine from GS, Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from GS

 

 

 

 

Valentine from Berne - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from Berne.

Inside of Valentine from Berne - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Inside of Valentine from Berne.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valentine from Vivian - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from Vivian

Valentine from Geneva - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from Geneva

Valentine from Geneva inside - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from Geneva inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valentine from Herman - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from Herman

Valentine from Herman inside - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from Herman inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valentine from Gerald - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from Gerald

Valentine from Gerald inside - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from Gerald inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valentine from Gerald back - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from Gerald back

 

 

Valentine, date unknown - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Valentine from a Maternal Great Grandmother, date unknown

 

Valentine, date unknown - 2

Page 2

 

 

 

Valentine 3-4, Kept by Viola Smetzer

Pages 3-4

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valentine 5, Kept by Viola Smetzer

Page 5

 

Valentine back - Kept by Viola Smetzer

Back

 

Hungry Love: Passion & Desire at the Chinese Buffet

February 8, 2018

 

I watch
you
eating
twice cooked
duck 

Your fingers
buckle
its skin 

Your
tongue
curls
a-
way
the thin,
dark
flesh 

returns
to the pile
on the tray
to kiss
the juices 

giving
each
fragile
bone 

its gentle
final
suck 

My hungry love
  

First published in George & Mertie’s Place.

 

"Stream through an Autumn Woods," photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

“Stream through an Autumn Woods,” photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer