Bruce Smith

Eight Poems from The Blueness


Señor wrote [lived] as if he want­ed to be blessed and to have this bless­ing be
received with humil­i­ty for its grandeur or with grandeur for its humil­i­ty, the later,
as every­thing he solil­o­quized about was beau­ti­ful [birds] and wise and made keen
by the look­ing, look, he’s charm­ing as he speaks in verse and loved not just for his looks
but for some­thing on either side of his illu­mi­nat­ed line. Love him love his looking.


You can’t coun­ter­feit your voice like that and toss in your blan­kets and call
your­self Señor. The voice only goes so far [so far]. The echoes die –
giant to dwarf to buzz because of the fuzzy gray areas of us: our skin, our dust,
the dan­der we accu­mu­late from accu­mu­la­tion. I had forty, no fifty dol­lars once
I spent on things that dimin­ished. I was rich. Now I touch you at this distance.


Then Señor found his coun­ter­part, his amorous absence, in the suf­fragette: Emily Wilding
Davison, who fell before the King’s horse [Anmer] as it round­ed Tattenham Corner,
Derby Day, 1913, a tick­et for the dance in her pock­et. Before what would Señor fall?
With whom would he dance? What art would he ruin for the cause and in prison
refuse as love is refusal as it is force-fed. Señor let her place a device in his head.


Tara loves the work of angiosperms, how they have insert­ed them­selves in our black-
mar­ket, coun­try-music ardors. How we have insert­ed our­selves in their elaborate
colo­nial pok­ing, their good-cop, bad-cop inter­ro­ga­tions of our apoc­a­lyp­tic ideologies,
she’s not so crazy about. Her pro­vi­sion­al resis­tance is one, unre­lent­ing plow woman
bent over squash blos­soms [weep­ing for the Sioux] fight­ing the pota­to bug, Monsanto.


I know your ever­last­ing shad­ow. Shadow of the wings and fuse­lage strafes
the field of lupine on the fly by like a boy’s toy. How can you be in an airport
and not want to be held, your torch con­fis­cat­ed, your face scanned for hostile
intent? You are not where you want to be, with Nancy Reagan, in the sun.
How can you be in the sun? Where do you go to get what you can­not be?


Not only is the World the place where you have to show your face [scan, pout]
and where they want to draw your blood and run the tests. The World’s a mosquito
[with a tourni­quet] and a swarm of vex­ing oth­ers where Tara is shattered
into col­or­less glass despite her com­pas­sion and hum­ming think­ing dynamo, here
comes the train into the sta­tion with its squeal and sparks like a mind.


Keats with his face and nose pressed against a sweet shop win­dow, Yeats said.
That shop a butch­er shop, the lamb from the abat­toir gut­ted, skinned,
hung by its hind quar­ters, specks of arte­r­i­al blood on the car­cass. He saw
his was and his specter-thin end in Rome, denied the apple and the bough
by doc­tors who would starve a soul. It was the skull he saw and the toll.7


I paint. I make fig­ures, Veronese told the Tribunal. My paint is my faith,
your Most Illustrious Lordships. I paint a drape. I place many fig­ures in space
as orna­ments of my own inven­tion. Yes, pick­ing his teeth at sup­per. Yes, a buffoon
with a par­rot on his wrist. Yes, men in German dress and hounds as would
be found in a rich man’s house and not the Magdalene. My poet­ry, your heresy.


Bruce Smith’s  most recent book, Devotions, a final­ist for the NBA and NBCC and LA Times Book Award, won the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America.