Hole, Where Once in Passion We Swam

By Dave Smith b. 1942 Dave Smith
The sun frets, a fat wafer falling like a trap of failed mesh.
I watch the pin-glare of a mockingbird’s eye cut sharply, descend
on the blank water, then emerge from himself naked
as a girl who shimmered here, once, for me.

If we come back like penitents to kneel over water, bass swirling,
scattering the mayflies that often, in silence, graze

lips, what is the word floating out from the mouth unbearable
as a bird’s black grin or a madman’s lust?

The word is not we, but me. Giving it again and again

brings no one out of the willows and I, willing to believe
like a sap in whatever dives or rises hear no voice
but the mist sizzling on stones. I lift my head

for echoes out of trees, for the flashed recoil of flesh hung
cheap and gaudy, wingless, above the stab of water
that crunched her like a beer can. Toads honk

the only answer. Among them, a boy, I felt

the grotesque pull of the moon all night, peeled and went slowly
down in terror, rising, falling through the pulpy leaves
until the sun caught me, drained, and I was no one
wanted, so walked away from all knowing,

walked into town and drank, calmly, an illegal beer, then slept.

The hooks, in hairy hands, clawed it smooth as a dish, a super-
human search by flood and fire light. What could they find?
Like many, I have been out of town a long time.

I wish the face floating above the chill at my knees opened
the door of a drab hotel. I wish it said Go to hell
or Do you know what time it is, anything

that, if I heard it, I could kneel to and swear to be faithful.

Dave Smith, “Hole, Where Once in Passion We Swam” from Cumberland Station (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1976). Copyright © 1976 by Dave Smith. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Cumberland Station (1976)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Dave Smith b. 1942

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Love, Animals, Relationships, Nature, Desire, First Love, Heartache & Loss

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Dave  Smith

Biography

Poet, novelist, critic, and editor Dave Smith was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. The first member of his family to graduate from college, Smith received a BA from the University of Virginia, an MA from Southern Illinois University, and a PhD from Ohio University. Smith has published more than a dozen volumes of poetry, including Little Boats, Unsalvaged: Poems 1992–2004 and The Wick of Memory: New and Selected Poems, 1970–2000, . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Love, Animals, Relationships, Nature, Desire, First Love, Heartache & Loss

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.