Immortality Ode

By Bruce Smith b. 1946 Bruce Smith
Miss Bliss, once I thought I was endless
since father was perpetual in his grade school
of seedlings in cups, the overly loved pets, and recess
while mother was the lipsticked dancing girl
on the Steel Pier who would outstep Hitler.

I was insufferable when I rolled
the Volkswagen bus two times and lived
with the snow chains like costumed jewels
slung over me and the spare rolled
away as in a folktale.
The pact I made in the spinning instant
said in my language of American
boy, Put up or shut up, to God,
the State Trooper who was kind
and spoke of service and punishment
and giving yourself away.

Now, I’m alive through the agency
of iron and contract work and appeals
to the fallen—angel and dusk—
but wet-winged and still without you,
Miss Bliss, who took me inside
where there was an ocean
before which we were children.
That calm, that fear,
that witness of the two-thirds
of everything else.

Bruce Smith, “Immortality Ode” from The Other Lover (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000). Copyright © 2000 by Bruce Smith. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: The Other Lover (2000)

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Poet Bruce Smith b. 1946

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Time & Brevity, Living, Death, Youth

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Bruce  Smith

Biography

Originally from Philadelphia, Bruce Smith is the author of several books of poems, including The Other Lover (2000), a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Influenced by Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, Smith’s poetry moves like jazz, incorporating images and narratives into a startling, musically unified whole. In a 2007 interview, Smith explained his poetry’s aspiration to song: “When the language . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Time & Brevity, Living, Death, Youth

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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