POETRY: Three by Rich Smith
If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.
I look dumb looking down
at a smartphone,
but that’s where you live.
It’s a little troubling to see us
evolving into human resources darlings,
careful to be seen saying
work is work in fact I work to work.
As if our clean shirts were laundry.
As if the trees were firewood and not large
sturdy flowers. The sun skips across
the painted land, tossing gold and silver everywhere,
and that’s all I’m ever trying to do. Sure it’s insane
to repeat the same process and expect a living wage
but nothing feels saner than sitting here
and writing to you on my phone,
accusing loose leaves of drunkenness
and happiness, doing no work
except for hoping you might join me
with news of a cloud.
My mind’s suspended in a song
that shuffled on. I think solemn
of the town I tacked the tune to,
drink blue from the day in it.
The chorus tells me to return
even as it returns to its progression,
but I high-tail it back home anyway.
The squirrels look the same but they don’t
remember me. Months of tossing thoughts
at the refrigerator. Beers with dad.
Never in a rush. Winter. No place to be
without a child. So I low-road it back to the coast,
dismissing the waves of grain as water’s carbon copy.
Along the way I see the oldest man in the world
shouldering a bulk pack of toilet paper.
I need to see him as a figure
for not hope but not not hope.
So I make the small joke, privately
name him Germain,
French from the old French
from the Latin for brother
from the root for shoot, bud.
Evidence here, that repetition
dissolves a name enough to change
but still mean the same thing.
I think of friends from the old fields
with whom I sifted sand for weird stones.
Looking at them I don’t know
wherefrom they came, wherefore they now lie
in an ashtray beside a crab claw.
But they excite me there, as if they are always
just about to say something.
Needled into Everyday
At every crossing I picture the bridge dissolving,
my body stripped to its barest contingency.
Finally I’ve allowed it a moment to explode
like every time the subway halts between stops
and look! even in death we all keep reading. I read once
a butterfly remembers the leaves it kissed
as a caterpillar. I never know what will make it across
so I kiss everything, even if I’m bound to get hung up
on its huge necklace. To link is to make a thing
kiss another thing. A poem chaperones
two breaths. Once a memory was
the only thing carrying me across a river:
She pulls me toward her by my coat sleeves.
Her icicle sunflower melts. Dawn kisses
my cheek as I leave. I kiss back,
but I kiss everything. The scene tore
me from bank to bank
of the Columbia. The bridge gone,
I tried to read into the surrounding
gray a figure for anything.
The passenger side seatbelt light blinked
at my suitcase’s weight in the front seat.
Image via Clinton and Charles Robertson