Friday Apr 20

SimmsMichael Michael Simms has, since 1998, led the Autumn House community in building one of the most influential independent literary organizations in the country. Currently serving as Editor-in-Chief, he coordinates the selection, editing, design, manufacture, and marketing of their publications. He is the author of five collections of poetry, and he presently teaches poetry and publishing in the Master of Fine Arts Program at Chatham University. Simms lives with his wife Eva and their two children in the historic Mount Washington neighborhood overlooking downtown Pittsburgh and the Monongahela River. Visit Autumn House Press.
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Black Stone
 
 
 
The black stone has been lost
Perhaps my son, singing the virtue of small things
Took it, collecting bits of the world in a shoe box
Puzzling over the smooth mystery
Of strange words, grinding his teeth in darkness
Waking, sweating, shaking, not knowing why
 
I loved that stone
I carried it from Ireland’s Dun Laoghaire strand
To Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid, Houston, Marseilles
(The old illusion of a man made better by moving to a better place)
 
Once in the bell tower of a town that appeared empty
I heard children, roosters, car-horns
(The only sounds rising from a town)
And heard descend from the outskirts of the sky
Surprising rumors, cries
From another Marseilles
 
Dallas, Saratoga, Iowa, Lauderdale, Antigua
Where a slim-beaked narrow-eyed customs agent
Sniffed it, rapped it, grunted, and returned it to my battered suitcase
 
Carolina, Boston, Chicago, Yucatan, Pittsburgh
Where the black fist of the rock sat on a mantle
Above a fireless hearth for years
 
If I found it
I would take the stone in my palm
Balance it carefully, slowly
Squeeze until I felt
My pulse in my ears, the stone’s birth
In a volcano, hear it ground down
By a glacier, scoured
By sand and brine, smoothed
To an ovular blackness, cold
As zero, the egg-shaped cipher
 
*
 
Vincent Huggins, Dublin schoolteacher
Landlord of my unscrubbed nineteen year-old soul
Treated me gently even when I vomited a black stream of Guinness
On his kitchen floor
My last night in Ireland
Braked his Ford
Near the rocky shore near Joyce’s tower
Jumped out, ran toward the black Irish Sea
Stooped, ran back to the car, tossed
The stone like a piece of the night-sea
Here’s some of the old sod to take back with you, Mickey
And now the boy has become a man with a son
Who loves wrestling with his dad
As I lift him, the muscles beneath his shoulder blades
Thicken, merge, knot
We twist, fall together
Proud of his boy-strength, his masculine budding
Tightening his tee-shirt across his almost-bulging little chest
Strutting like a rooster, scratching
Rocks, roots, the dark beneath the floor of the world
 
A boy cannot listen to his mother
While the black stone is calling, demanding
More than he can give
Hearkening him to the world, a heaviness
He tries to shake off
By wrestling with his dad
 
*
 
I search for the black stone everywhere
Rummaging a drawer of flashlight batteries, death-head pogs, splintered pencils, movie stubs
A photograph of a white cat that died before my children were born
Broken sea-shells, a light bulb, a peeling fuchsia crayon
Dirt, buttons, cellophane, red hotels of a Monopoly game long scattered
Green bits of string, half a map of Philadelphia
Resistors, capacitors, diodes—the guts of electronic junk
The flotsam of daily life in the Age of Stuff
When each thing has magic and worth only when new

But the black stone is nowhere
Perhaps I dropped it down a mineshaft in a dream
A testicular talisman
Falling toward the center of the world
Through all the lost forgotten things
The single socks and divorced fathers
The unfinished poems and failed boarded-up businesses
Lost opportunities for forgiveness
Are like miners excavating rock beneath the foundation
A house sliding toward a deepening hole
My son searching for his own black stone
Whatever it may be
Only to give it away
Or have it stolen
By his son
Who will love it, lose it, and forget it all over again
Learning that the search itself
Is the gift, the treasure of the darkness inside the black stone




The Food of Love


At two o’clock in the morning
The security guards were called
To the dormitory. Trevor was
Standing under his lady’s window
Again, serenading with his chosen
Instrument, the bagpipe, and lights
Were coming on and people were
Yelling obscenities and calling
The police. Not a single co-ed
Was leaning on her arms mooning,
Envious of the young lady hiding
Under sheets in her room, wishing
She’d never smiled at him. If music
Is the food of love, then bagpipes
Must be the Limburger cheese
Of the heart. I think of Goethe
At the age of eighty four
Falling in love with a girl of
Seventeen. Her father tried to have
The greatest man of the romantic era
Arrested. Her brothers wanted
To cut off his balls. Love, my
Friends, makes fools of us all.
I don’t know what became of Trevor,
The bagpipe poet of Irving, Texas,
But I like to think that his lady
Developed an appreciation for
His persistent inappropriate
Passion, and his nightly squawks
And bleats, sounding for all the world
Like a duck in love with a beautiful
Mare, stirred her, and when
The guards escorted Trevor back
To his room, his bagpipes drooping
Forlornly behind, she picked up
The phone to call him.