Pick-a-Poem: “Smote”


Welcome, blog readers, to another Wednesday and another featured poem. As always, we’re featuring a new work from someone that you may not have heard of before. Hopefully this helps you discover a new poet, or at least adds a bit of poetry to your morning at work. If you’re stressing over finals, maybe take some downtime and read this poem, or bookmark it for later. Today’s poem, as usual, comes from Poetry Daily. The poem we’re featuring today is Smote, written by James Kimbrell.

According to his biography page on Poetry Daily, James Kimbrell is the author of a new collection of poetry, Smote, which will be published by Sarabande Books in October 2015. Kimbrell has written two previous collections of poetry — The Gatehouse Heaven (1998) and My Psychic (2006) — which were also published by Sarabande. His work has been published in Poetry, Narrative, and Best American Poetry 2012. He is currently the director of the creative writing program at Florida State University.

Smoteby James Kimbrell

When Shirley Weems submarines her Barbie 
in the shallows, spooking the catfish 
while her brother and me sit on upturned buckets 
with cane poles on our side of the pond 
not bothering anybody, I note 
how the light around Shirley seems so rosy, 
all a-twinkle with its own 
self-contained Shirley music. I pick a dirt clod 
I don’t think contains a rock, but it hangs 
long above the pond before completing 
its arc, smacking Shirley 
upside the head, which sets her off screaming 
for the house where her grandfather—big 
Truman Weems—barrels out 
in these overalls it looks like he’s stuffed full 
of inflated inner tubes, what you might call 
stacked fat, like raw biscuits 
pushing against the cardboard tube 
after you whack the can against 
the counter edge—so puffed out 
and defined is Mr. Truman’s fat that each roll 
trundles separately when he charges 
after me, slapping the air, hollering 
that I’d better get back across the street, 
and where is my mother, I am nothing 
but trouble—Little lousy 
peckerhead son of a bitch! 
                     Thank you, Mr. Truman, 
for your patience and understanding. 
In my defense, I threw the dirt clod 
because I never thought it would reach her. 
Because she was scaring off all the fish 
no one would ever catch anyway. 
I threw it because she was so pretty, 
or lonely, or I was. 
I tried to lob it more or less around her, 
and yet with that one mistake 
I joined the ranks of the rock throwers, 
and it shook me so biblically 
I thought I’d dreamed it. 
                        Even the Guernsey cows 
grazing in the pecan orchard between 
my house and the cemetery 
seemed suspicious, 
disappointed. Those sweet drowsy cows, 
weed munchers, cows never milked, 
old absent-landlord cows, they stare 
at me now with no more comprehension 
or pardon than on that day 
when I found 
the very reach of the earth vaster, more 
unforgiving than I ever 
imagined in the tall grass littered with rotten pecans 
where I lay at the feet 
of the animals.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s featured poem. For more of these, click this link.

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan


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