February Sky

By Bruce Smith b. 1946 Bruce Smith

“endlessly making an end to things”

I must have left a fingerprint, a molecule of oil,

          a seal, a slick when I took my hands away

from her throat—the way she liked in loving

          to have her pearls exchanged for the torque

of my fingers and so kill her eminence for a second.

          The queen is dead. Long live the queen. The evidence

was volatile, was fugitive, was a story told

          in menstrual blood and glycerines, Chanel and boss

sauce. It failed in the telling to be events

          and sequence, the spell of water and bridge, and became

rain and distance, the first faint smell of rose

          dismembering, masking the rigor mortis of the coyotes.

I took my hands away as from the child

          sleeping or from the hot stove, and I was no longer I.

I saw the sky in the windshield of another city.

          The sky an empty karate studio, the sky Route 95.

Because she saw herself everywhere,

          The sky a fugue, the folds of a gown where the dragons are.

there could be no other. A film was her darling,

          the sky Artists’ Supplies, the sky six-thirty darkening.

a mirror of her hair—fixed or deranged

          Sky of correspondences, the color of G minor, the taste of gray.

She thought, from the audience: I should be up there.

          February sky a copy center, relocated elsewhere.

I loved to go out into the audience, the bebopist said,

          and walk in the crowd to feel

what they feel. Jumping down from the bandstand, I

          broke my foot, lay there, had to blare it from my back.

The sky nineteenth-century smoke, the sky a drum,

          then here comes the bass solo.

Vote Hoffa, the sky says, labor sky, the dollar soaring with the yen.

          The sky popularized, blue-red, the access and the factory.

I take myself to the movies—the romance of sheets,

          the dustup of things and her magnificent face: stylish,

the sky inside her eyes, chlorine and glass.

          I tithe to the darkness and I’m glad for the dark

two hours where I undo her, where I remember the eye

          I indulged, the opposite of sacrifice, the lamb’s throat

uncut, the woolly body kindled in the green

          like a dream of Lorca’s, betrayed in the telling.

The sky Repairables, the sky Pony Rides.

          Some nights in the house by the river, I walked out

into a collective dream of home—an overstory

          overlooking a body of water—where I found

the horse like smoke or luck, a muscled earth, an avatar,

          and I held him, face to flank, and felt the skeleton

under the skin and the fear of the human touched back

          by hunger. The great white eye another moon.

It was a lesser and a greater form of the feeling

          after fucking, if it has a form, if its past is present.

Sky an empty shelf in the Salvation Army Thrift Store.

          A few fine hairs like her lashes on my hands

The sky a white peony, the sky a paper life.

          when I came back and found her bound in the sheets,

the opposite of spectacle, not absorbing the gaze but

          giving off light like night water, giving back the gorgeous

I had inscribed there, a fallen form, small, fursheen, film

          still, a body suddenly small enough to fill a tear duct.

The sky a shell, a lull in the shelling.

          What was it like, the loving? Like Sarajevo

under siege, no electricity, no gas, no water,

          and yet the dance goes on in which a bathtub is filled,

and, although the theater is twenty degrees, the dancer

          of the god-kissed tendons for her finale

jumps into it—the leap that takes away the breath

          and rations it to everyone, and

it’s the only bath for anyone in two months.

          The sky orchestra and karma, the sky Gold Bought and Sold.

The windows of the house I won’t live in held light

          and the island fires on the river, held hawk and heron.

Under siege in dream, the panes slash my face when they shatter

          with difference, inside, outside, with distance, what was

not. A second dream: kids go by on bikes and big wheels,

          their faces grown up and disfigured, scabbed,

hydrocephalic with sadness. Finally the whole body

          The sky a gray whale, the sky magnanimous and cruel.

and not just its parts, wants to be unloved, beginning

          The sky Purgatory Road, the sky a god mouth, a crow.

with its parts, the fetish of her: a cell from the lining,

          spit, a follicle, the thousand ships of her face,

the torso and ratio, rib whittle, unbound feet, beginning

          to become vast, nothing you can touch, a taste,

The sky a copper pot blackened, picked clean of puchero.

          a smell, familiar and far away, unlocked by thaw,

feral and essential, like a language lost, like night

          illuminated by the night.

Bruce Smith, “February Sky” 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 Love, Winter, Relationships, Nature, Weather, Desire, Realistic & Complicated

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Bruce  Smith


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 Love, Winter, Relationships, Nature, Weather, Desire, Realistic & Complicated

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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