Mudlark Poster No. 101 (2012)

Pleated Paper Cups

i.m. Walter E. Maple, 1899-1968, my grandfather
The pleated paper cups in Walter’s office
Caught the saliva of the 1920s,
Four decades’ worth of blood from gum disease,
The spittle of a hobo with a cough. His
Old furniture, since reupholstered, is
Scattered among descendants. Somehow these
Long-yellowed, brittle vessels must appease
Some need of mine to own relics like this.
Corroded dental mirrors no mouth has known
Since the Depression, gold crowns forged by hand,
A hunting knife of crevassed antler bone,
Black silver wire, red umbrella stand—
All bear mute witness to a life long gone,
A fragile kingdom once his to command.

Starr's Oriental Rugs

“Elle est retrouvée.
Quoi? — L’Éternité.”
                    — Arthur Rimbaud
Starr’s Oriental Rugs in Englewood,
New Jersey, shimmers in my memory—
A fact that borders on absurdity
Since there’s no earthly reason why it should.
The moment I’d return to, if I could,
And choose to cherish through eternity,
Shines all the more for being so ordinary:
A bus stop bench rough slats of peeling wood,
A warm spring night with all the trees in leaf,
Dark windows, ornate carpets spread like wings.
I was nineteen, ignited by belief
That every fiber of awareness sings;
Sure living would be glorious, and brief;
Sure, in that instant, of so many things.

Straight Razor

The grip, not “mother of,” but truly pearl,
Houses the honed edge of a century—
A luminescence that conceals the whorl
Of fingerprints, dreams of a silvered sea.
The blunted blade is black with age, and we
Shrink from imagining its touch on flesh;
Cold steel navigates instinctively
A throat no scented lather can refresh.
Magi who kneel before an ancient crèche
Sport unkempt beards perfumed with frankincense;
Unearthly light enfolds them like soft mesh
(A painted miniature rich in portents)
While some Victorian cheek, pale, and shaved clean
As a ripe moon, illuminates the scene. 

That Silence Grows

This land was pure ten thousand years ago;
The unspanned waters of the Golden Gate—
Turgid and seething—yearned and surged below
The Marin Headlands’ balding granite pate;
Sun-stunted grass shone amber in the late
Eocene sunlight. Long before soft tar—
Like sluggish blood that will not circulate—
Defaced the wounded world, an angry scar,
Before the age of train or motorcar,
There was no language here, no need to name.
These hills were lit by many a dead star
Burning in silence: an unyielding flame.
Beneath our frenzied towns that silence grows,
Encroaching unobserved—still, the land knows.

The End of the World

A truck arrayed with angels, gaudy stars,
Struggles through traffic in the Civic Center,
Emblazoned with grim quotes from scripture verse
Admonishing the End is surely near.
(“The Bible guarantees it!”) Weather’s clear,
The morning warm, fragrant with budding spring.
How can the heart be yoked to senseless fear
On such a glorious day? No reckoning
Seems in the offing while such songbirds sing
So sweetly to the old procreant urge;
The spreading sky presents a dazzling
Blue slate on which creation is writ large.
Will Armageddon show May twenty-first?
We’ve got another year or two, at worst!

Robert Lavett Smith lives in San Francisco where he works as a Special Education Paraprofessional for the San Francisco Unified School District. He is the author of four small-press chapbooks and, most recently, of a full-length collection, Everything Moves With A Disfigured Grace (Alsop Review Press, 2006). A collection of his sonnets, Smoke In Cold Weather, will be published by the Full Court Press sometime this summer, 2012.

Copyright © Mudlark 2012
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