Fuchsia

By Charlie Smith b. 1947 Charlie Smith
Apprentice morning come easily now,
silver with fog and the breakdowns
of neighbors: shouts from up hill
where the land curls under vines and under the porches   
of oaks, where even now
wintergreen and inkberry shiver forth
streamers of new growth, and the green frogs
suck at the dew and sing their bent songs.

It is easy
to hear my own voice in the liquid
contraltos of rage, the vents
and accusations that feed fires
up the hill. It is all human enough,
the yelling, capacious
and frank, the doors slamming, cries
of betrayal. I too have betrayed,
lost my place among the condensations   
of commitment, dallied.
                                                I go among friends
who say with neither fear nor fury in their voices
that they too don’t know what’s next, that from the studied   
impactment of their lives
they have sallied small lines
of proposition, made a few calls. Slight affairs   
shiver and fail; we go for a walk
by the rotunda, where, on the perishable lawn,   
a band plays Dixieland—speaking,
not earnestly, but with steady intent,
of the play of choices, the simple chance
of another future somewhere else, perhaps a house   
in the hills above L.A., part-time work   
for the screen, a few avocado trees. For a while
it is as if the hazy play of evening light,
the splashes of music, the unbundled oaks
surrounding the Square, are enough
in themselves to sustain, as if mood
is itself sustenance, that our struggle to conceive   
a continuance is of no more moment
than the fuchsia and soft yellow clothes of the tourists.

Perhaps it is possible
to be gentle no matter what, to seek not restraint   
but surrender entirely, to turn
from the snarling reproach not into the keening   
dismissal of hope but to whatever bright
fluttering is next, the bright fluttering
of wisteria petals, a felicitous
phrase, fingers touching
a face. How else to avoid
redemption,
or its opposite, which we stopped believing   
in one day in high school, suddenly startled   
over a steaming lunch tray by the way the fizzed   
flowers of a stunted mimosa
seemed to beg for release? We realized then
we could say whatever we wanted, that the world   
was no more particular
than anything else, it too could be out-argued,   
confused by refusal or lies, that it was no wonder   
people were stunned
by the eloquent permanence of death.
                                                                        So there is   
permission, not granted
but given, as a forsythia at the edge of the walk,   
having stolen more light
than it can contain, trembles, and the echoes
of argument fade into a fluttering
over the price of butterscotch floats,
and we are dazzled
by the gouge of perception, as if there was in fact a word   
we were waiting to hear, not
as completion but as synoptic
and inevitable entitlement—the drift
of some stranger’s conversation,
the memory of a thin mist
moored temporarily over the garden, that face
we saw from the window on the way to St. Albans: beautiful,   
indifferent, unequivocably doomed.

Charlie Smith, “Fuchsia” from Indistinguishable from the Darkness (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1990). Copyright © 1990 by Charlie Smith. Used by permission of the author.

Source: Indistinguishable from the Darkness (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 1990)

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Poet Charlie Smith b. 1947

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Living, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Trees & Flowers, Social Commentaries, Life Choices

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Charlie  Smith

Biography

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 Living, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Trees & Flowers, Social Commentaries, Life Choices

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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