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


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


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