It is my privilege to introduce Jared Smith. He will be joining our editorial staff.
It is my honor to name him our first official contributor.
In The Plate Glass Window Factory
In the plate glass window factory they watch reflections of sky
and melt down silicon mountains before coffee break.
The sun rises and sets in iron vats.
It is contained.
In the plate glass window factory they build liquid frames
for pictures of farm houses where the farmer rises early in the morning
or for train cars that ensnare the mountains of a continent
and for young women baking bread in little towns of red brick homes.
In the plate glass window factory as the day goes on the breathing hardens
and they pour their crystal lakes into featureless trays
which can be filled with anything,
sweeping time from the floorboards and cutting it out to hang on walls.
And in the plate glass window factory, the workers never go home,
not even when they fish dark rivers beneath the stars.
What can you write that cannot be photographed?
I want this poem to go along the parallel lines of force
you have carried from the factory floor in your eyes on leaving work,
the heavy beams that shape everything you see sitting here
reading these words and adding to them the images you’ve seen.
I would have the images of the signal fires of forgotten cities find fire
and reflect along the linear tunnels of time inside your mind and meld
with the lovers lost, the songs sung, the dreams dragged to dust,
because they too are singing the songs of you across all time
and this is bigger than we have known since data shrank itself to data.
Volumes of Homer, Shakespeare, Archimedes, Einstein, and Plotinus
and grunting guttural lovings and semen in the night are not data dots.
I want this poem to flicker in the electromagnetic spectrum of your mind,
reaching across our darkness like a candle in a sawdust bar room inside
a plastic globe encasing a flame that reflects only from your eyes and
then goes out across the universe as light rays do in never-ending time,
without echo, without ever coming back, but leaving a trail to follow
I want this poem to be of many facets that flicker unexpectedly in the mundane.
I want its awkwardness to jangle in your pockets so that you pull it out
and think about the twisted pieces of metal and see how they light up the dark…
this to be human thought expanding for eternity even as the insentient objects
of our first being in the Big Boom expanded across electromagnetic boundaries
with echoes still seen that have meaning far beyond our understanding.
Among the Mystic Mountain Men
I’m an urban fighter once skilled
with hard-edged things, wired
to the paychecks of accountants and
used to sending men into the ground
for precious metal or food grains or
permanently if the need is there
without raising my voice or doing
anything but pressing digits on a phone.
I was a thing of bricks in a mahogany
office of books and desks and sweat
with no windows except for those
looking out on other windows and
other men sweating animal fear behind
mahogany brick walls where women are
paychecks distributed by wire, but
I have been going west for thirty years
and earth has swelled from the heartland
as I have followed the setting sun, and as
the sun sets we become eagles and stolid
mountain peaks are more a home to us…
Ex- urban fighter, I now look out at land which
overlooks the ambitions and offices of warriors,
seeing the weak institutions we create among fields:
small against the plains and smaller against mountains.
Men give degrees for this and speak of dreams.
I do not have to take to be alive. I do not have to take
because I am an urban warrior, now in a pastoral land
and the sharp edges of mountains now cross my soul,
and drawing the mountains into oneself is understanding
and that is power over any man who speaks with threats
whether he comes with fighter planes or paper ballots
or with lies to buy food for a family’s future. I, a
one-time urban fighter, know the weakness of my knives
and now the indomitable strength of lives.
A man who speaks
these languages speaks no words to anyone, is a tree
in a clearing growing old as the green foliage drops away.
If you Want to Write
If you want to be noticed, write a poem with the effect
of being hired for a job after sixteen months laid off.
Write a poem that jingles in peoples’ pockets.
Write a poem that Stephen Hawking reads.
Write a poem that takes apart the Atomic age
even as the ones Oppenheimer wrote put it together.
Write a poem that works harder for someone else
than for you and builds workingmen’s unions.
Write a poem and fold it tight into an envelope
that will be the last thing a woman ever opens.
Controlled by Ghosts
The snows came in early over Monarch this year;
cold right behind them, whittling away at the firewood.
I stacked it extra high this year, seeing how thick the fur grew on the fox,
for all the good that did because it’s already smaller now than usual.
I dragged dead aspens down the hill and chopped them up, piled them up
as long as my heart could take it this year; just until one day when I said
that’s enough; that’ll do it now;
and I went blank deep down in my bones and went inside and lit a fire.
The snows came in early this year, though, even so,
and the cold; it was so cold. And the snow was so deep you couldn’t get out,
you couldn’t climb the hills after awhile even when the sun was out.
You couldn’t climb the hills to pull down any more wood, even if you had the heart.
The woodpile just kept getting smaller one day’s heat at a time.
And the wind, it just kept coming in through the chinks in the wall,
so I’d sit there at night burning as little wood as I could and huddled
until my mind started wandering and I’d think about you
I’d think about you and Pete going down to the store last winter,
his arm bringing you in under the wind when you turned the corner,
not that I could see that much up behind the aspens where I worked.
My whole life has been controlled by ghosts;
that’s mostly what I think about as I take the last cord of wood, piece by piece,
take it in and pile it by the cast iron stove your Momma bought.
It was a Christmas present the year we built this house, black and hard,
sitting here in the middle of our home waiting for winter.
Well, it came, of course. It came early that year as well
but of course there was a thaw come February like there usually is.
Not this year, though, with the woodpile all but gone.
I saw Pete, I think, yesterday way down the road,
saw him walking almost lightly over the snow as if it wasn’t deep at all,
standing near the corner where the two of you used to pause,
looking like he wasn’t sure where he was meant to be going now.
Then gone, of course. I suppose I should have got more wood,
but I thought I’d got enough; always did before.
There’s a first time always, I guess, the cold comes down
and stays around until it finds what it’s looking for.
These poems are included in The Collected Poems of Jared Smith: 1971-2011, published by NYQ Books in 2012,
and available from Small Press Distribution, Amazon, and independent book stores anywhere.)