Stills

Bruce Smith

She said: An American girlhood. I served the snacks

            Not me, not me, not me, but something enemy

in aprons, spit in the oysters. Here’s one of me with my father

            the blood through the birth cord baby knows is poison

before he fell off the executive swivel chair and cracked

            is mother. Rare blood, then the holding, the honey

and clowned, but did not sacrifice like a clown to save me

            the rest of her life. Of the two kinds of torture

I’m daddy’s little girl at the murky water’s edge

            being held eternally or being held occasionally

these are his knees I’m hugging like sequoias, my face

            suffocation, the former, the latter is the big kiss-off

I’m vamping. Look at those legs. The glasses are drained

            there are names and ceremonies for the century

at the lake with Popadom, the terrier I was allergic to 

            tortures with names like the telephone, the tea party

my father backed over him in his car. He had to breathe into
 
            football, the last gasp of pomp at the end of empire

a tube to start it. I loved that dog. Spread-eagle

            We need more drums and pipes, more glittering things

with my best friend, Kim, killed in Bosnia. Before

            more artifice, more power. We’re foreign to ourselves

the nose job. Prom. I fell in love with my science teacher

            body and antibody, what’s the ritual for this

I was lonely. I had lost my mother. Here we are in California

            the insult of being one of many

in the end zone, saved in a goofy kind of way

            one of everything I miss
© 2007 University of North Carolina Greensboro
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BRUCE SMITH lives in Tuscaloosa, AL, where he teaches in the MFA writing program at the University of Alabama. He is the author of four books of poems, most recently The Other Lover (University of Chicago Press), a finalist for the National Book Award in 2000. He was born in Philadelphia.

His poem “Stills” received The Greensboro Review’s 2001 Literary Award for poetry.