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R.T. Smith



      for Forrest Gander

southern viburnum amid the laurel
among the spruce and hemlock
on ridges stalked by the Cherokee
and did not the green stems offer
the trim and narrow the true wood
for shafts?  wrens nesting in the forks
rendered feathers the color of bark
for fletching  leaf shape arrowpoint
a bird's beating heart   the roots
were perfect for lashing the flint
tight so its missile could sing in flight
and sometimes the hunter kept
to shadows used the blue berries
for lure and sometimes he killed
a partridge in the remnant limbs
and cut a spit and kindling but other
times the man in stealth heard
the wind's voice where it gathered
in the boughs and gave it heed
and matched his steps to the rhythm
and sped along the dampened path
under a sky as dark as bartered tea


R.T. Smith is the editor of Shenandoah, The Washington and Lee University Review.  His volumes of poetry include The Cardinal Heart (Livingston, 1991),  Hunter-Gatherer (Livingston, 1996) and Trespasser (LSU, 1996), the latter two nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, as well as Split the Lark: Selected Poems (Salmon Poetry, 2000) and Messenger (LSU, 2001). His collection of stories is Faith (Black Belt, 1995). Mr. Smith served for many years as poet-in-residence at Auburn University and co-editor of Southern Humanities Review.  His Selected Poems compilation is forthcoming.

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