Issue 19 – Winter 2011 – Bruce Smith

Bruce Smith


Devotion: Dusk

A copy of a copy of a copy 
of a rumor of glory.
                      Sacrifice this, 
I said to my god with my indoor voice, my sloppy 
ding an sich , my interior with extension cord and abyss.

Night is either everything else or etcetera,
I can’t tell which. I’m afraid of the phenomenon 
you bring back from sleep: the unfurled viscera 
of the kittens, the street fight with Frantz Fanon.

You can’t pretend you don’t love the world 
in translation 
                   although day is a literal place 
with 80-some pregnant high school girls, god 
did not father from the looks of the erasures 
of their faces. We will have to kill the kids 
with golden shovels, their mouths like orchids.

Devotion: Sun

South of Cincinnati: a lot of scorched that (a lot of this) lost 
in the Not-I incised by six lanes (lane from a British schoolboy 
hymn) that we call August or science or home. 
Near becomes foreclosed and far becomes a Doppler 
of the beloved and still lives at 75 with radio Jesus everywhere 
on the air (like a test of the Emergency Broadcast System). 
A face comes out of the clouds, a lake of fire ahead like science, 
Jesus, Home Depot, and the over voice like a mobbed-up 
Sinatra, appealing to your sense of power (+less), your sense 
of Scotch and Soda. Then the sun burns a hole in the film 
and makes an even greater sun that halos the round bales 
in the fields and pours through the hole a molten gold 
around your head like one of Giotto’s sobbing angels. 
You begin to see the way the bodiless mob controls 
the material as the wind is a gold you move through, chest deep, 
as in the aftermath of storm. You’re dead, Sinatra says, unless 
(– un) you’re one of the cool elected to move horizontal, but 
not moving at all (seated, driving, bored), your pulse a diesel. 
A hawk rides the thermals. You slay another dragonfly 
on the windshield. You’re complicit with Mobil. The radio says, 
you’re never entering the kingdom of heaven – a shady lane 
with butterflies – while you enter the endless red generalization 
of the middle you take an aspirin for. Tar bars beat out a rumba 
(Cuba, Africa) that sings failure or future, rapture or vulture, 
who can tell? When Huck and Jim dropped below Cairo, 
more orphan and slave than before, more beloved of each other 
(more cruel) than before, they moved through the hoax 
and scorched that and the whiskey of the middle 
into the (loveless, ruthless) American. Now you’re a pin 
dropped on a map moved by your mind (heated like Egypt). 
It’s not all matter. It’s a butter that’s god and other, squinting 
distance, no nearer nor farther, south of Cincinnati the world 
(minus New York and Vegas) is female as much as we try to truck it 
(cargo, capture). The light is gasoline poured over everything. 



Bruce Smith is professor of English at Syracuse University and the author of five books of poems, most recently of Songs for Two Voices
(2005) and The Other Lover (2000), a finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. His latest collection of poems, Devotions, is forthcoming in the Phoenix Poets series from the University of Chicago Press in April 2011.