A city I’ve never seen, though Em went once.
She brought back the River Walk on a shirt
and, for V, a shot glass, which kicked
off her collection.
There’s the Alamo and that’s
a bit of downtown. Not photographs, Sweetie,
but like cartoons. The confetti in the air
means holiday when everyone is happy.
For months, V made it her only cup
and washed it so much the scenes faded
In the three years left to her,
Em brought back a glass from every city
she visited, a practice V and I
can’t stop continuing. Twenty nine now sit
behind San Antonio on the shelf, though
the doors have been knocked flat and ashes
glint the glass on the outskirts of town.
Some lines we still lack the heart to cross.
Yellow of fire and fear. I have
become a violent man, seduced
by every shadow of your shape.
One half week ago and early
for the service so the children
might warm up in the loft (your daughter,
tall among them, and, at the piano,
a woman that excites me leading them
along), I reckoned them up,
the stretched days I’ve been forced
to see alone. For fifteen months the world
has been all background noise and, for that,
I want someone to thank. Next morning,
I left for these mountains, unthinking
until the smoke sparked me from myself:
clean-up fires in the backyards of the valleys—
notes on a clef—neighbors rushing in
the new season with beer and jokes
half-heard over the crackle and hiss, raking
them with a toe or propped against one
of the ringing rocks. For what did I
come here? What melody of clues
did I hope might lead me back to who
I was—amnesiac who can remember
only every hurtful thing. The night
before I left the home we thought we’d share
until we forgot ourselves and were
forgotten, I struck a man to the street
for almost nothing, and felt nothing
when his head bounced from the curb or when
he staggered upright (Were those his friends
behind him breaking into a run?);
nothing when that cab swooped in to whisk
me home as if its driver were a god
whose bright eyes flickered with his mother’s will.
As if. I’ve spent three days here. The fires
still smolder, but no one gathers near.
My love, your death will always be
the altar on which I choose to burn.
About Mike Smith
A native of Philippi, West Virginia, Mike Smith is a graduate of UNC-G, Hollins College, and the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of And There Was Evening and There Was Morning, a collection of essays forthcoming from WTAW Press in September. Mike Smith has published three collections of poetry, including Multiverse, a collection of two anagrammatic cycles. His translation of the first part of Goethe’s Faust was published by Shearsman Books in 2012, and he is co-editor of the anthology, The Mint’s Invitation: Contemporary Chinese Short-Shorts in Translation, forthcoming from Columbia University Press in August. Together with software engineer Brandon Nelson, Mike created and curates The Zombie Poetry Project at zombiepoetryproject.com.