Monday, January 23, 2006

3 Poems Bruce Smith



Like the inmate, X, doing time in Lewisburg  

      A great inverted pyramid of ignorance 

who wrote the pimp fictions in which he's the mack 

      indentured to enchantment or god 

in jodhpurs and a derby moving through the streets 

      built brick by brick, coming into knowing  

of his dominion in a blizzard of angel dust, bebe, crack 

      or the jolt of not knowing, but the fat chewed, the dirt 

and quaaludes with a little sompin' sompin' in his waistband and 

      dished, the shit shot and then the point of the delta comes  

a little taste for the ladies wacked up 

      crashing down on your heart.  The end.  You're better off 

on a mirror, because style is all and the hustle is 

      for it.  The question was why is time  

a way to ramble, slow 

      afflicted for you.  Why the nick in the  

slower, slowest through the amber 

      fiction?  Terrifying once upon a time  

that's the press of the all, the fossil 

      the chagrin of leaving Eden 

parables and shackles of the master/slave  

      that aristocracy with trickle down and don'ts 

I loved the language pushed through the fangs 

      The story hurts.  Your own story 

of the needle.  I hated the style 

      of love and sedition and shame 

the made-for-TV, jailhouse, convict vainglory 

      tedious and self-incriminating 

Where was the story of the last ten years 

      The beauty and the butchery 

that began when my father lost an arm in Florence 

      that began with the deep-fried details of 

South Carolina when the car fell off the jack 

      the fathered illness, demon possession, the spill of guts 

then he packed us up in the station wagon 

      that was you conveyed by agents 

and drove to Philadelphia to my uncle's 

      one pronoun after another 

and got a job in a garage changing tires  

      like a hacked up child from the Brother's Grimm 

with one arm and my mama fenced 

      the story of your blood and recovered 

TV's and radios . . . I hustled home 

      guilt.  Sometimes I was a changeling 

in my hounds tooth sport coat having praised the authentic –  

      and sometimes a bird singing 

pain to necessity to a handgun to a felony 

      in the tree branch the song of my murdering 

and checked the inauthentic 

      Entering is ending 

the spangled dream and need while doing time 

      Think of the Israelites, Ellis Island 

One made a crime of the story 

      I love you, that story 

The other made a story of the crime 

      of inordinate need and boundaries blown down 

And I was a slave teaching slavery to slaves 

      the beauty of that 

and the beauty was I was wrong


Then the skin became our mystery 

      Any huckleberry or galaxy or nerve 

and not just the horn, hoof, and hair 

      jangling, any ghost raging, a vague system 

the dead surface under which 

      like the spectrum, the stock market, and 

the new cells brood and brush up against 

      tort law to pull the strings of the future 

and then everyone's Petrarch 

      which we believe, if we're white 

rhyming about the wound, the man, the beloved 

      is a blue sky and a machine that works for us 

sadly, we're such sensitive creatures  

      noiseless, well-oiled, well-riveted 

the skin a sad machine 

      although given to failure like love 

the skin made of elegies and airplanes 

      I sing this song because I have 

the skin made of artificial intelligence and  

      a very big mouth, the chops, and the  

self control and over dubbing 

      self like an organ.  I'm loud and I get around 

skin of circuitry and credit 

      and I'm humbled because I can be 

skin of leisure I can climb into and sleep


Once I was a man, then another 

      You and what rhymes with you 

one a whip, a skinned switch, the other 

      a kangaroo among the beauty 

a mass of slow twitch thickness 

      said Dickinson, nothing mimed her inside 

where the itch was 

      or the vision and horizon outside her window 

I made a sound 

      that rhymed, nothing rhymed 

like who as I brought it down 

      with paradise 

on myself and a man said O 

      everything with domain and plane 

Then the glamorous, duplicitous glow 

      of the agony of moving 

of the poem like the photographer's flash 

      she was my Virgil 

the outrage of our faces, our desire 

      of the horror, of the refusal 

caught, tricked, because art 

      she was my Beatrice 

to mean something must hurt 

      is my Beatrice as her tenses are present 

And I want to see the wound 

      past, future, her faces adorable 

And I demand to see the wound