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Four poems.



Even Presumption Is Late.
(on Michael Apted’s 49-Up)


SEVEN BY SEVEN years, collapsing, and again, into a point.
The lens looks coolly upon those one time
children, their homeless faces.
You won’t find innerness but in the edit. You won’t.

Life trace to light trace. It makes
a person queasy. Continuing — to be — continuing.
And now, you know, old. Cast off. Pissed off.
An island in the wash of the replay of some poor bugger’s wake.

Of everyman’s. Do the hidden reciprocate?
“They may see me. They can’t tell what I’m thinking.”
They can’t, dignified lady. But that holed-up feeling
is gone. Even presumption is late.

Chimney Sweepers.

roses on their lapels: her
favourite colour. I felt
confused, like an epi-
thalamium had taken a wrong turn,
or got the wrong address,
and ended up
at the Chapel of Chimes.
A dreadful business,
the celebration
of life. In days after
I gravitated to
the song
from Act IV of Cymbeline
and, eventually, decided
it was too mock-
pastoral to carry my grief:
a poem first
about dandelions, and only
secondly the human
thing. A green-
world verse. The city
meanwhile had stopped spraying
them. The whole
of the near school fields a plane
of yellow and,
a week or so later,
of “dust,” as my four-year-old
daughter called the
seed-clocks. We spent
our time picking
and bunching the blossoms
anyway. Such a
flower, with depth of
earth in it, with the sun’s
rose. Brief, too, as a
song about losing your way,
pipped from one toothy
old rhizome
rayed with improbable turns,
coming up yellow
all over.

The picture of the fourth Earl of Sandwich in a blasted tomato plot.

BLANKET THEM AT dusk, nipping the frost
trigger that stretches cells to ruin.
They’ll sit in the dark on basement floors,
signallers in a dry signal-house.
Gibbon, reluctant to judge it a
decline, leaves his club. The English, tasked
to adopt a flavourful enzyme,
take one home gift-wrapped. Sweet yellow flesh,
red more common in super-marts. And
Sandwich, at his gaming table all
the night. Open face, a bit of cold
meat. What is it about lunch any-
ways? My wife seems mostly to need none.
She toughs out the p.m. well enough.
Catabolic of texture, bad pain —
like a night’s boiling of vegetables.
His bright speaking about specimen
mites, root mold forms. Now December breaks.
That he was good at inhabiting
the days, what a representamen!
Salt beef, greening bread, no tomato.


A TWO-YEAR-OLD OUT for the pant leg
of the one she thinks
hers, touches fingertips instead
to a jag of iron filings.

I talked away — me! — performing
the late night arrival of Ricardo Reís
into old Lisbon. The novelist

listened — her face a dream
of affinity. I didn’t catch
the flash of judgment. (Hadn’t it
an old friend’s eyes?)

Twenty-five slow years
that story — Saramago’s — had travelled
to reach me in the joy and

shock of early parenthood.
The weather fell on that vulnerable man
but also on the just —
also on him who strained

to confirm a doubtful echo
when he glanced off the posited chair,
his rain bone jangling.

J. Mark Smith‘s poems have been published recently in The Polyglot and The Malahat Review. His verse translations of work by the Chilean Winétt de Rokha appeared in The Fortnightly Review in 2016. A book of literary non-fiction, Little Deficits: A Non-Heroic Memoir of Foster-to-Adopt Parenting, is forthcoming in 2022. He teaches in the English Department at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta.

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