Tuesday Jul 17

DaveSmith Dave Smith's new collection of poems, Faces Flared with Gold, will appear from Louisiana State University Press in Fall 2011.   In 2010 he published Afield: Writers on Bird Dogs (Skyhorse Press, essays edited with Robert Demott) and in 2006 Little Boats, Unsalvaged (poems, LSU Press). He is the Chairman of the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and is Elliot Coleman Professor of Poetry.
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Bowden Eley on Inauguration Day
 
 
The first faint notes
of the CD thump our small
kitchen, my grandson Bowden
and me, side by side, boys
tapping the linoleum, him
softly saying Ba Ba Ba,
all he can make at 2 years,
Awake in early dark,
and God knows why
this one heart-banging
Beach Boys tune gets him
head-nodding like a rocker.
 
If I cut off his song torment
rattles the cupboards,
his face clamps in darkness
like mine years ago
singing, then JFK’s sudden
death, so I loom and sway,
big Pop, booming
Ba Ba Ba until the fine
yellow light of dawn cries
the small Spring birds out.
We could lie down now, or we can
roll in the sweet nap of
   Grandma’ Dee’s rug, sleep is
    strumming him down smartly
as a guitar’s backbeat.
         But we go on
      humming Ba Ba Ba
     and I cradle him the way arms
         held me long ago in that fading
music of heartache. Soon I will be
         rising up endless stairs, blue sky
      taking me from him, and Dee,
      mother of his mother. We’ll go
back to dirt where we danced. But
 
     not while the CD whispers, oh
not Peggy Sue, not Betty Lou,
    who told us what to do, taking
a chance on love, finding you
           and the way leading us to
cling to each other, stepping,
clapping. bird wings fluttery as
    if joy is the future, alive and always
like us bobbing, sun
    pouring into the kitchen, just
        Pop and Bowden and ‘Bama
dancing, crying out Ba Ba Ba–
delaying whatever name’s next.
 
 
 

PHOTOGRAPH Of A WATERMAN, BULL ISLAND,
VIRGINIA, CIRCA 1970
 

In my office I knot my tie before him,
the expect-it all look of his left shoulder
a fighter’s, skin of his nose and cheeks bleached,
except for liver scars, and the deep, open
mouth caught like a fish about to speak, and about
his runny eyes shade of hat is back-tilted.
 
Behind him the 100-foot pier spills to tilted
buy-house, money’s mounds of oysters opened
before memory. He’s lifted, frail arms, shoulders,
years of crabs, fish, whatever swam before him,
wrestled boats, mud sucking it all back. About
ten yards right is another pier, its bleached
 
fish-house keeping men he can’t abide, shoulders,
necks cocked in pride, backs turned. He’s walked there, bleached
sun the same, but theirs a different world to him,
old insults rotten as fish and the tilted
men who limp past same roads, same marsh, are opened
doors he can’t go through. He’s thinking about
 
blood, names, words, maybe, way his face, tilted
to see what you’ll hiss, can’t lie and won’t open
that dark gaze, as sure as burning dusk. Bleached
bay slick and marsh stink hang at his shoulder,
Saturday, catch sold, sunken hull before him
(one of them’s, he’d say), shells and scales about
 
all his shore keeps.  What would they say of him--
last of a broke oyster knife?  “O.K., open
up, shithead,” his face says to the photo, bleached.
Two sons, his boat, storm-drowned, ride down his shoulders.
On the salt-rotted pier he’s walked, tilted
sun falls finally down. Soon they’ll talk, men about
 
fire barrels, the buy-boys hovering, who don’t open
much their wallets. Faces demon-flamed, shoulders
fluttered as words sting like black flies, touching bleached
deadrise sunk, woman old, fucking catch about
worthless, back busted, weak as a child, and him,
breath so bad you might die when he breathes, tilted
 
to offer his bleached face as he might for Him
he’s pledged to, when croaker come back, and the bleached
shells rise that can’t just any man shoulder open.