THIS BLOG IS NO LONGER OPERATIONAL. PLEASE ENJOY WHAT IS HERE, AND DO LEAVE A COMMENT IF YOU WISH. NORTH CAROLINA'S NEW POET LAUREATE IS CATHY SMITH BOWERS. SHE WILL SOON HAVE HER OWN WEBSITE THROUGH THE NORTH CAROLINA ARTS COUNCIL SITE. I WILL BE SHIFTING MY ATTENTION TO HERE, WHERE I AM, (SEE SIDEBAR)USING IT TO DRAW ATTENTION TO WRITERS WHOSE WORK DESERVES ATTENTION. I INVITE YOU TO VISIT ME THERE. For a video of the installation ceremony, please go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xAk6fOzaNE.
Go to http://www.yourdailypoem.com/, managed with finesse by Jayne Jaudon Ferrer, who says, "Our intent is to make visitors to Your Daily Poem aware of the joy and diversity of poetry."
Thursday, April 30, 2009
WAITING ROOM, by Mark Smith-Soto
Waiting Room Mark Smith-Soto Winner of RMR Chapbook Contest
Red Mountain Review ASFA Creative Writing Dept. 1800 8th Ave. North Birmingham, AL 35203 $6.00
Costa Rican-American Mark Smith-Soto is Professor of Romance Languages and Director of the Center for Creative Writing in the Arts at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he edits International Poetry Review. A 2005 winner of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in creative writing, his poetry has appeared in Nimrod, The Sun, Poetry East, Quarterly West, Callaloo, Literary Review, Kenyon Review and many other literary journals. The author of two award winning poetry chapbooks, his first full-length collection, Our Lives Are Rivers was published in 2003 by the University Press of Florida and Any Second Now, by Main Street Rag Press.
Putting Cancer In A Poem
You have to be careful how you do it— The first line for sure’s no place, even The second or third might let it spring Leaks and streak everything beneath. No, First you need to let the light flap in From the uncurtained window, catch The deep breath off the gardenia bloom Doing the backstroke in its brandy snifter As the doctor on the phone says what he Has to say, and your wife and friend wait With wine glasses and the porch fan on, Chatting and looking for you to come back With the hors d’oeuvres, the Vinho Verde, The poem of your life with its new name.
Why me, why me, why me? The chittering slants From the red oak shading the screened-in porch; Figure it, figure it! an answering call, I can’t Be sure from where above, maybe the birch
We planted the summer we moved in, our First sweat invested in our first house to own, Back when we planned the future we live now. Pretty us, pretty us, pretty us—well, there’s one
Melodious throat out there, silvering a note I strain to hear again… It won’t repeat. And I shiver against the October mist that floats Over the yard. The twilight is growing deeper,
A final Figure it! fades in the late sun. Only the Why me? fool keeps carrying on.
Wounded like me, willing to talk, knowing What a scarecrow cancer is, how people don’t Want to linger near that kind of news, including
Friends who mean well, look away, act as if They can’t hear, humming in their ear, “You’re Human, human, human, you poor thing,
Did you think you were special or something?” Like me, who didn’t know I was like him Until today. So, sure, he’ll meet for coffee, lunch,
Talk on the phone, exchange biopsy stories, Gleason scores, radiation and the luck Of early diagnosis, the years of silver lining
We are in for. I glance at his face and it’s Like a film has been wiped away, the fine Forehead, the cafe window a tiny rectangle
In the eyes—the pure daylight of a look That doesn’t need to look away.
A Question or Two
Does God know why he exists? Or does he wonder, too, somewhere in his winding depth, just what he is, and how he comes to be all-mighty Him, exempt from time and death? Is he that saddest thing, a being who worships nothing? Or does he worship us who worship him, the way some fathers do their helpless sons? Are we each other's cross, each other's shadow? Does ours stretch over him as cold and hard? What happens in his heart when ours cramps? And when our pupils dim, what eclipses does he glimpse among the stars? Is our breath his? Our spirit that despairs? Are we—poor thing!—the answer to his prayers?
Here and There
I am here…What does that mean? These words I scribble down detach from me, enter a world Not mine, beyond the time of me: the weight of What I meant to say, the friends I meant to love, The heart I wished was mine. Words do their best, Poor things. They can’t breathe for me. The rest Really is silence, a silence I am resisting now, Here, by this window framing purple clover, a bough Of laurel I meant to trim today, the late light Of June making the lilies meaningful. And I Work to spin myself from this, to tell myself, to sing The sense of me, the life, the soul, to bring The human of myself—hands, tears, hair— To you catching these words, not here but there.
Tulita’s birthday again, neither mourned Nor celebrated, too warm for early March But perfect for champagne in the screened- In porch, the cardinals making a din as I evoke her in one of the wrought-iron chairs, Bubbly flute in hand, eyes distracted away,
Another springtime on her head, long-buried But again now looking over the back yard, listening To the birds maybe, or taking in an early Daffodil along the fence… I watch her watching And wait for her to turn to us again, but she Hasn’t done that for many birthdays now.
The rest of us talking and laughing outside Are all in our fifties, it’s been months since We could sit out here and listen to neighbors Behind hedges, dogs howling, the rustle Of nest-making in the hollies. My Tulita, Who fought the years off like mosquitoes,
Tinted her hair and drew on perfect eyebrows, Now leans back against the metal leaves and roses Of the metal chair chilly with the afternoon And accepts the long shadows on the lawn, listens To birds a hundred years away, inhabits Her corner space without a murmur, looking back
Over a lifetime of birthdays webbed in memories Not sharable with the living, her lifetime of small joys Held secretly apart while we try to share ours Near her, refilling our glasses and shaking Our heads over another winter gone, another Perfect afternoon subtracted from our store.
I've lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina since 1968, though I'm a native of SW Georgia. My paternal grandmother was born in the Blue Ridge, and I grew up wanting to live here. Where I am.
I've published five collections of poetry, the most recent 4 being with LSU Press, and have published poetry in magazines ranging from The Atlantic Monthly to Appalachian Heritage. But I also hike, bang pots and pans around in my kitchen, and love several dogs who leave fur all over my carpets. I write poetry because it's my way of singing back to the world both within and without.