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Four Poems

Travis Smith


My pinky toe became numb,
and then my tongue,
and by the time all food tasted like coffee grounds,
the only way I knew I touched
was by seeing myself touch the thing I touched.
Mr. Dwyer suggested
I was the dream of a polar explorer
eyed hungrily
by his very sled-dogs.
He is an ass to be making foolish comments
in these serious times.


River Ether

the fishermen reel
in skulls and abaci
and a turtle with
no eyes and a
lute with no
strings and something
is tugging on the
line something
heavy let go

I’m telling you let go

a dugout boat
then a one-mast
skiff then a
brigantine drifts
down the acid
blue no sails
no passengers no flag
only a black
dog that jumps off
and swims to
shore don’t call it

don’t you remember last time

in the water the
pines look
crooked the sun too
red for noon the
horsetail clouds are
jagged and snarled
so you want to
see your face

see it you might as well drink


The Calliope

after Vachel Lindsay

The circus came over the hill and pitched its tent.
The blue circus pitched its tent.

A clown, an elephant too often beaten.
A wooden carousel too often ridden.

I saw the hoops of fire, I heard the calliope.
I saw the Dancing Princess of the Nowhere Country,

heard the harnessed lion’s minor roar.
A man called out from outside a tent door:

“Come see Atlas, the Giant Horse, alive!”
He’s there, inside, absolutely alive!”

But I passed Atlas, the Snake Child, the Poison Twins,
I came to the woods where the circus ends,

where the wah hah whoop of the calliope
was still the calliope’s wah hah whoop.



Here are the big woods

Here is the tumbledown stable

Here is the tumbledown stable in the big woods
Where Elliot tends the old cow

That his father kept
That his grandfather kept
That his grandfather’s father kept
Who knows how long it goes back

Or when she was calved
From what kind of mother

Or who sewed the patchwork quilt that covers her
Who tied the ribbons to her horns

Who empties the rusty pail
Elliot leaves outside each night
Full of black milk


Travis Smith completed a minor in creative writing at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 2009. His poems can be found online at storySouth and Wag’s Revue.