Dave Smith


Cleaning a Fish

In her hand the knife, brisk, brilliant as moon-claw,
shaves the flesh. It grazes the white
belly just over the heart.
Underneath, the coiled fingers
are cradling a soft flesh
as if it were the jowls of the aged

man propped for a while on the bench in the park.
The head is not severed, the eyes not out.
Blue, they appear to flash odd ways
where a tree makes a live shadow.
Mostly the eyes are dead.
Nothing is in them


It was not kindness, but I was only buckle-high in the door.
I let him in because the knock had come, the rain
clawed each window and wall. I was afraid.
Climbing down the stairs I did not know
how my country, cunningly, had rotted,
but hear, now, my steps creak in memory
and the rocks let go in the blind nightglass
where you get up, frightened, to reenact
the irrational logic of flesh.

Near the Docks

There was a fire in the night.
Across the street I slept among the others
as the ashes snowed upon small pines.
I slept owning nothing, a child ignorant
of fortune’ s blistering story, the playful
flash in the dark, the unseen smolder
that would leave us revealed, unchanged.
I said my prayers for luck
but the man trying to live in two houses
answers me now, losing
neither the old one whose windows burst
with weariness, nor the one half-built
whose roofless, green timbers