Mike Smith lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his young daughter and son. A graduate of UNC-Greensboro, Hollins College, and the University of Notre Dame, he has published poetry in magazines such as Free Verse, Hotel Amerika, The Iowa Review, The Notre Dame Review, and Salt. His first full-length collection, How to Make a Mummy, was published in 2008.
Two Poems from Multiverse, BlazeVOX Books.
(The following two poems are anagrams of one another. The letters of one poem have been rearranged to write the other. No letters have been added and no letters have been left out. )
Anecdote of Defeat and Defeat
Those afternoon visits to the West Virginia
of flies, flowers, and the feeble grasp
of weeds under a cow-belly sky
the wisest once deemed worthy of worship.
Blue mountains. Black earth.
Only this day, I ran to follow
(Was I eleven?) my mother, trespassing
her way over a patchwork pattern
of forest and yellow pastures, the ever-present
tipples and tracks, toward two stray dots,
unmoving, on the distant mountain
that became, in time, something laughably
incongruous: Free-standing porch swings
in a field, a chair and ottoman, no,
more sensibly, deer blind or outhouse,
the remnants of a rusty still,
some altar. (This should be the painting
of a photograph on the game-room wall)
But the mother and young calf swung
their heads to stare my way. I paused to mark
the mother’s warrior’s helmet of a nose,
the bones easy under loose hides,
the lousy insects everywhere, swarming
over sores and soft parts—Trojans destined
to extend behind the ramparts, yet shiny
with surf. The wide-eyed calf stayed
beside his mother. Something like the taste
of hate rose in my throat. I guessed then
there would never be real fight in me,
but, also, that there would never be a need.
Slide the blue river on a tube, cheat
with a shout the heads of stones, tunnel
the narrows, breathe in every pore
the constant spray
or branch off with a splash
to walk my fingers above the surface
of the water. God, it is good
to get drunk in the woods.
I used to jam together every word
that rose in my thought so long
as it retained a ripple of sense.
Here, I let senses go. And words.
Catch and release, since what we have
we are sure to lose anyway.
Let me loose my pants
for a dance
on this very stump, for the drunk mind
seems to get nearer these passages, these lit reds
and yellows, soft browns, and hard purples
and greens, so I let myself drop
to my fern bed. I sleep, calm, beneath trees
some early god made whose eye
now only envies as it kills.
From a distance.
With furious aforethought.
Which is why I refuse to return,
instead, my bottle up
to this salamander supreme
I see swim so largely the stream,
whose only commandment
is to enter further the forest, mix up
on the way another batch
of the stream’s bubbly, and imbibe
what you can.
............ ......... I down it all
for the devil dog that exudes
this new truth, my patron saint
of having nothing to lose. I drink
to having nothing to lose. I rise. I drink.
Multiverse, BlazeVOX Books (Buffalo, NY)