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by Jordan Smith

The fireplace is twelve feet wide, a great millstone set in brick
Above the hearth, as if it were a child’s pinwheel heat might turn,
And my mother, eighty-nine this year, sits below that suspended,
Implacable weight, her face lit, although no fire’s laid. It’s mid-
Summer. I haven’t seen her look like this since I was a child,
And I’m not the only one to notice: You’re lovely, one of the cousins-
In-law says, I want you to touch me before you leave, so I
Can take that beauty with me
. Well, if truth is strange because
I take so much of it for granted, then it takes a stranger to tell it
True, I guess. Earlier, I’d watched my aunt watch the window
For my parents’ car, watch and watch, and then her face, too,
Blazed as they pulled in. At the pool table, the young
Almost-cousins take turns at a game they’ve made up,
Of spheres, trajectories, and objects spinning in space, as long
As objects last in space, energy and inertia. Beautiful,
Someone says, or I think they do, in the pleasant, drowsy
Swell and flow of talk, ordinary words, orderly, always
About to vanish. There’s a lake, I’d like to think, just down
The hill, and a canoe there, gliding toward an island that is
No island, since nothing is as separate as it might seem, not
The night, now, and our bodies at speech and at rest, not
The moonlight’s sweet waltz on the water I can’t see from here,
Though I can see enough of bright and dark to know that nothing,
I think nothing, rubs off on us like beauty as we row home.


Jordan Smith’s most recent collections of poems are The Names of Things Are Leaving and For Appearances, both from the University of Tampa Press. He lives in upstate New York and teaches at Union College. (10/2007)

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