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.
Smote, by 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
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.
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