Lawrence R. Smith


A flock drinks with little sense of risk
among scattered vertebrae and sacra,
illustrating the fallacy of contradictions,
as when a train runs all night long
and never reaches the pale city
it has always dreamed of possessing.

Sheet lightning along the horizon
offers clues that might illuminate
her book on breath and fantasy.

When your bed suddenly breaches glass,
a door will open to your other life.


The sign is exact as it eases
between iron mast and that desk
with its circus of chipped veneer.
Inside a dream of chairs, couches, 
and a cabinet of hallucinatory 
storage, life is full of choices: 
lentil soup, neon, the water rattle, 
bitter herbs, record sleeves, 
a calendar of alternative dates
and multiple zones of support.

Pressing against the wall is futile;
its wood is hidden but inevitable.
There are holes within holes
and yet they conspire to retain.
There are brief bursts of song,
but signature and staff spin out 
crescendos of barbed wire.


A bird hits the tonic windshield
of Nica’s Bentley, then oozes
across their eyes like a Jersey night.

Nobody knows Jersey like Monk
(except Carlos Williams)
because Monk chats with
everyone who ever lived there:
Aaron Burr, various Ramapos
and Hackensacks, Amiri Baraka,
Walt Whitman, Bud Abbott,
Jayne Mansfield, Hurricane
Carter, Edison and Einstein.

That’s why the lights are on.
He rolls each touch of night
inside his head, drums against
the inner chamber’s walls,
massage for the long groove
to make the outside copacetic.

Monk checks his bent landscape:
shoulders, pieces of song in tandem,
rings that drop hard on the keyboard
and travel under a new surname.
There are no scars in his box of cool.

His chords and changes live deep
in the pocket, that dream space
where misery meets abundant joy 
then explodes into starlight.

Lawrence R. Smith edited and published the now retired Calibanonline and its print parent, Caliban. He is the author of Annie’s Soup Kitchen, The Map of Who We Are, and The Plain Talk of the Dead. He has translated Antonio Porta's The King of the Storeroom and, with Michelle Yeh, No Trace of the Gardener, poems by Yang Mu. He edited and translated The New Italian Poetry: 1945 to the Present.
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Blogger Sheila Murphy said...

very moving poem, Larry. Thank you.

6:01 AM  

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