Saturday, September 03, 2016

The Sunday Poet: Jared Smith

Jared Smith

That Night in '41

It was their eyes that always got me,
flat and unblinking as dinner plates
or as the coins we traded in markets,
but come from the deep with something
horrible endless dredged up to the light,
to be thrown dead naked on dinner plates.
You eat what you can get, I know, but
the scales themselves catch in your throat
when everything you eat comes from dark
and is drawn to the light you spread, and
nothing comes from the land you can see.

That night the blossoms bloomed at sea was
like so many nights our lads set the nets
and lit the diesel driven lights above them,
and the ever hungry water hissed beneath,
as the nets played out and the shrimp rose
drawn to an artificial dawn, and the great fish,
those that knew the eternal darkness of life,
rose to the light that filled their lidless eyes
and thrashed in the final spectacle of death
drawn to the elusive light that gave them life,
trapped thrashing into a world of demons,

The blossoms bloomed at sea distant while
I watched, first one and then an hour later another,
so that I held my girl in wonder on the beach
asking what was that and what was that, holding
each others hands as we watched the fairy lights
those trawlers carried on their rigging burst,
becoming flames that lit those floating cities
on the beaches back in October of 1941. The next
day, that fast, the trawlers knew to dark their lights
but the bodies of some of our Town-folk came in
smelling of the world of commerce and of Europe
and their eyes like those of fish filled with memory.

We read then of the U-Boats off the coast of Coney Island
at night and the shape of freighters caught in the light
of amusement parks, and we learned to eat less
like the Great Depression that blew in from Arizona
and filled the sky over Washington. We were afraid,
but still town is town and you do what you must do.

----Jared Smith  ( Originally published in the Malpais Review) 

*** Smith is an editor at the Turtle Island Quarterly and on the board of the New York Quarterly. His poetry and prose have been widely published.

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