Posts Tagged ‘writing’

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.

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.)

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.


May 22, 2017


by Vera Lisa Smetzer


You write the worst part
is not kids shooting off
handguns and Uzis
loud enough, close enough,
to make your neck sweat.
There’s a silence in the alley
when you know someone’s heart
has stopped and you shiver
all night. Once on a full moon
you stole a shovel and dug up
dirt to plant sweet potatoes.
People thought you were burying
a body and came after midnight
lugging metal detectors
to check for jewelry.
Before this city, the only bodies
you knew were bending over
small town pool tables when you
hustled them for money. You loved
how their skin glistened in the bar
room light when they started
to lose. Too bad you say,
you don’t have any. Living in
the city is high maintenance.
Worst part is exhaustion
thrusting its fist in your face.
You stomach the stench
of scrubbing public toilets
at Greyhound bus stations now.
Still you dream of ripe fruit
in summer, tending hives,
planting rows of potatoes
on a farm, anywhere. Some days,
fear runs so fast through
you, it feels like bees
hum in your blood. I check
for a return address, there
isn’t any. You continue
about “small pleasures.”
In one store, you read
pages and partial chapters,
move onto another store,
you’ve mapped routes so you can
finish books. To survive,
you write poems and stories,
letters on toilet paper,
like this one. You hope I
don’t mind, say you’ll
write again. You don’t
sign your name.


Copyright © 2017 by  Alvera Lisa Smetzer



Getting Published

October 27, 2013

Copyright © 2013 by Mike Smetzer


I spent this morning organizing my poems, stories, and essays to send out to magazines. I updated my Word files, clicked on Poets & Writers in my Favorites list, opened the classifieds and then the little magazine database and began noting the most auspicious listings.

It is a ritual I have performed since I was an undergraduate, whenever enough happy and unhappy responses have piled up in my inbox. Pondering those listings and then the simple mechanics of formatting the letters and attachments, well, it takes a lot of time, and it reminds me that, after all these years, I am still struggling for recognition. That depresses me.

They say when anything you do depresses you, you need to examine your behavior. Something probably needs to change. I have decided that I need to change two things: my voice and my expectations.

I find that I have shifted inside and my old voice seems strange to me. What I am doing when I write is not really as important as I used to believe. My writing is no more sacred nor profound than anything else I do in life, and neither are the problems I write about. I am a good writer, of course, but I am also good at cleaning out a cooler at work, and the two are pretty much equal as accomplishments.

I also realize that I am probably much happier being unimportant. It means that I am free from all that baggage of pretense and seriousness that important writers have. I don’t have to impress anyone. Which means I don’t have to follow literary fashions or write up to academic “standards.” I can write as myself, in as common a voice as I like.

Which leads to my new expectations. I now expect and hope to be an amateur writer for the rest of my life. I don’t need to be in Paris Review or have a book published by Graywolf Press. I don’t expect to hold a creative writing chair at some university or even teach a class or two at a community college. I don’t expect to make my living off royalties and readings. I simply expect to sit down in the evenings after supper and write. I simply expect to be free.

I’ve had some grand visions of myself as a famous writer. But famous writers often seem trapped in the aura of their success and by the expectations of their followers. I have always been thankful to those editors who accepted my work. Perhaps I should also be thankful to those who rejected me, especially at crucial moments when I might have crossed over to become a professional. I don’t need to march down a paved path following one literary flag or another, not even my own. I can wander, unkempt and little seen through the fields and forests, wherever my old legs take me.