By Charlie Smith b. 1947 Charlie Smith
This time we are getting drunk on retsina
in somebody’s Italian backyard. We are a long way   
    from Georgia
and all of us are lonely. I wave my arms
and caw like Hadrian after his lover drowned himself.   
My wife walks by the pond singing a hymn;   
I think she is leaving me for good. I say, Imagine   
my heart is huge and has
    little men
walking around inside. They don’t know each other   
but they’re stuck there eternally
and have to get along. One of them starts shouting;   
he finds a black horse and rides it around in a circle.   
The others laugh at him. He leaps from the horse and   
starts to choke the smallest man. Something like a hand
    starts pumping the heart
and the men nearly go crazy from the pressure.   
—The first olive I picked from a tree
was so bitter I nearly threw up. My wife is strolling   
around this strange landscape full of broken pediments   
as if she plans to be happy from now on. I think   
I have to tense it up, act like I’m in control.   
I don’t think I can do that. In a few hours the sun will   
rise over my brother’s backyard in south Georgia.   
He’ll come out and admire the water jewels
the night has hung in the kumquat bush. He’ll hear his son say,
it’s too big for me to wear,’ and remember quitting the baseball team   
    thirty years ago
and wish again he hadn’t.
—I get up and march down to the pond. I start to speak   
    to my wife
but then I feel a hand
that is about to crush my heart.

Charlie Smith, “Rider” from Red Roads (New York: Dutton, 1987). Copyright © 1987 by Charlie Smith. Used by permission of the author.

Source: Red Roads (Dutton, 1987)

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Poet Charlie Smith b. 1947

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Family & Ancestors, Relationships, Living, Separation & Divorce

 Charlie  Smith


Poet and novelist Charlie Smith was born in Moultrie, Georgia. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy and, after serving in the Peace Corps in Micronesia, earned a BA from Duke University and an MFA from the University of Iowa. He has written five New York Times Notable Books and has received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. He has also won the . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, Relationships, Living, Separation & Divorce

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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