Sunday, April 27, 2008

National Poetry Month, Day Count Has Become Obsolete: Bruce Smith

Bruce Smith was one of my poetry professors at the University of Alabama. His book The Other Lover was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. The following poem was published in a recent issue of American Poetry Review with 6 other "devotion" poems. You can read the others online here: American Poetry Review.

Devotion: Red Roof
by Bruce Smith

Write like a lover. Write like you're leaving yourself for another.
Write like you're de Beauvoir, object and subject. Write
like you must rescue yourself from yourself, become scrupulous
to the body and the rain that floods you with rage and the crude
sublimities: there was a lip print on the plastic glass wrapped
in the misty domestic interior of the room. Write like there's evidence,
there's tenderness, like Paris were the scene of a crime. A lipstick
by the bed, a phone number, a plastic glass with prints. The remote
is toxic. At the Red Roof Inn they couldn't recommend an alternative
to suffering. Like lovers we spoke of short term/long term knowledge--
and the rest in the circle of hell the telephone allows. I want
my piracy, I thought you said. The familiar doesn't travel well.
The soul doesn't travel well. Poetry spoils. Write like you're Mingus.
Write like the evidence vanishes. Inflammable walls between devoted
ghosts--smoke and the convention of the fourth wall pulled down.
Drama majors, drum majors next door, the all-night opera with starling
sounds. The Red Roof Inn hath me in thrall. The highway sounds
like the sea in storm, pirates with their perishable cargoes.
Their ship goes down. The soul doesn't travel well. Write
like the ship goes down with your belongings. Write like you're in thrall.
We're blown around like Paola and Francesca, lovers, carnal,
windy starlings, misled by the sublime--the binge and purge
of the book and the body. I'm wildly attracted to you winter and fall
when I fly the migration routes from Corpus Christi to Saint Paul.
Or is that summer? I do not travel well. I travel like a lover,
boy king or saboteur, stormed by the fluids of the body.
I'm wildly attracted to your feathers, your lip and book.
My greatest vows are in the getting out. I kneel to look under
the bed for belongings. I've pirated myself. Thank you for the chance
to fly, the leaving. Thank you for the soft pink tissue, your cargo
of ghosts. The telephone is toxic. The body's a rumor. The leaf
blower in the opera is over the top. Thank you for the brimming.
Thanks for the speech acts and action, the alternative to suffering.
Sorry for the hoarse sobs. I'm wild about the red noise of the traffic,
the holy wars of the starlings. Flying back all the songs are of glistening.
Flying back the passenger in 5D is unwilling to rescue others, unwilling
to rescue himself. Write like you've lost your belongings.

No comments: