A Poem for Tracy K. Smith

  What does the storm set free?
        Spirits stripped of flesh on their slow walk.
— “The Speed of Belief,” from Life on Mars, by Tracy K. Smith

So we both lost our fathers,
your Floyd William Smith, 1935-2008
and my Richard Alan Sharp, 1936-2007,
both engineers, yours worked on the Hubble
and mine on the fuel cell for Gemini in the 60s.
You think of the soul wandering, a man
without country, spinning,  perhaps to touch
down on Earth again, through you,
while I imagine the soul, or something
like one, fueling a distant star cluster
with a power that could only be love.
And so I am left to look at you, wide-eyed
with hair exploding like a supernova,
and believe I see him there, too,
in your smile, seeing through your eyes,
your father who looked to the stars,
toward my father, burning in the night.

Phantom Pain

“The loss of my left arm,” quipped Cervantes, “is for the greater glory of my right.”

Between bottles of wine
we agreed it was the right ear

Van Gogh lopped, by our memories
of that self-portrait with his head wrapped,

But of course it was really his left side
seen in mirror image as an artist naturally would.

My image, naked in the mirror,
the scars, I touch them where you touched me

With your thin and honest lips that sting me now
with the cold searing of their absence.

A January Poem

Written Jan. 2, 2012, this poem appeared in my e-chapbook titled Wind Fierce as Love published a few years ago by Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.


Six sandhill cranes
land in a field
ringed by cottonwoods.

Dry grass,
wind-combed cornstalks,
thin snow rind in fence shade.

Chain clanging
on a metal flagpole,
Oglala drumbeat.

Weak sun setting,
half moon rising
like me without you

on New Year’s Day
in a wind
fierce as love.


The Apparati of Flight*

Sinew hinges, struts made of hollow bone,
feathers to catch the air, to gather it up
and shape it into dreams that hold us

Aloft.  Forward we pump ourselves, wingbeats
and heartbeats, feathers aligned against the pull
of prevailing winds.  Hope, yes, is one thing

With feathers.  Another is the egg.  Whole
or broken, it is a beautiful reminder.  But
this sky, too, is made of pale eggshells and

The sun, a yellow-bright yolk.  Take wing.  This day
is born to flight, it calls us, crow-caw, goose-honk,
and we are lifted on the buoyant light of love.


*Like a prayer, I repeat these words seeking comfort, woe to me of little faith.

Lorca en Nueva York

Bitter winter mornings, in my head, shoulders and down my spine, my pain
is hewn in the shape of the cross. The cold pounds my hands and feet like nails.

Is that how it went for you, Poeta en Nueva York, self-exiled from sun-baked
Andalucia, hard against the frigid East River wind? Did you know in your bones

there would be no paradise, no loves that bloom and die? Where are the bones,
do they dance beneath the orange trees, do they sing Gypsy ballads to the moon?

Did your heart pound like the hooves of the pony the night of the Blood Wedding?
Did you have to die for love, or did love die for you, too heavy a cross to bear?