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Shostakovich, Eliot and Sunday Morning.

Three poems.

By E. B. SMITH, Jr.



Fear the kiss of a pistol
behind the lips.

Meaning and murder
flash on his nervous mask—

How to smuggle ambivalence
into a world of Pravda and purge?

The Fourth Symphony: stashed,
moonlight hidden in a drawer.

Slowly he infiltrates covert notes
into musical code, irony-cloaked,

ciphers Stravinsky, Mahler, meter,
proletariat, Prokofiev, patriot,

Cossack, Communist, cynic, czar.

A million killed at Leningrad—
Treasures stripped. Buildings blasted.

The Seventh rises, cannot die.



The doctor, muted,
shakes his head,
stares at his hand-clutched hat.

The poet’s friend
crosses the room
with the limping tread

of a sudden-stunned cat
who has witnessed
the death of the moon.

He rambles to the window,
trembles, then ponders

the sterile sky, its thunder,
silent, vacant, dry.


Winter doves swirling,
the dance of snowflakes
flowers the air, softens

charcoal trees, smooths
rough, stubbled fields,
feathers the barren hills;

and we become, slowly,
birch bark snow,
witnesses to wild glitters

on crystal ice, lace vistas
in the wind’s sweeping
now, before, and after,

a hollow voice in voice’s mist.
Cracks slash the frozen lake,
snap beneath the frosted sky.

Silence asks the secret,
white noise replies.

E. B. SMITH, JR. is a former Associate Executive Director of the Kemper Foundation. He is co-author of Contemporary American Landscape Painting and resides in Florida and Illinois.

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