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J.D. Smith



We came from farms, from small towns,
distant countries, and we were various—
the sodomites, the bored,
the bookish and unmarriageable,
and mostly, those who knew
that, wherever they had come from,
the pies had been cut long ago.
We made from level land, fresh water
a place that would embrace us,
our coin of effort
held in common currency.
From it, docks and bridges rose,
tracks webbed a continent,
a fist of skyline broke the plain.
Our want outlined, we brought it
to a brittle gleam
with theaters and stadia
spreading wide and filling full
of cliques enough for everyone
to find one of his choice,
and others whose postal code,
or skin, made the choice worthwhile.
Only on free evenings
do new wants arise—
to visit parents' graves
and buy a nearby plot,
to have the pleasure of, besides a dog,
space to let him run.



On Wide Plains

There are two elevations to know:
a man's height
and the height of grain.

Trees occur as exceptions.
No principle extends from them
to the next unshaded mile.

By day, a standing figure
casts a shadow that can tell the hour.

Unseen, he might strip, go on four legs,
and, for a time, attempt
the grazing of vanished buffalo.

At night, he might shout,
waking no one, and fall asleep
waiting for the echo—

while unbounded syllables
dissolve into the breeze,
the broad dark.




Blessed are the broad-leaf weeds
that erupt from cracks in flagstones,
for they attest to the persistence of life
even in scant dirt, underfoot,
where others have appeared
between attacks with sharp trowels
and treatments with well-aimed sprays.

Blessed, again, are the unknowing.


J.D. Smith is the author of Settling for Beauty (Cherry Grove Collections, 2005) and The Hypothetical Landscape. He also edited the anthology Northern Music: Poems About and Inspired by Glenn Gould, and has published poetry and prose in numerous journals.
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