Poems by Lee Ann Smith
BEFORE YOU LEFT
Before you left, you were my friend.
A boy friend, not a boyfriend.
All that summer of beach sand and transistor radios
you held up a mirror.
Yes, you said, yes
smart is sexy.
Before you left, you loved to live!
Got up at four, kneaded dough at your family’s bakery
drove a Honda 650 and a red VW Beetle you called Herby
tried anything new.
Yes, I said, OK
I’ll try that too.
When you left, I had already moved away.
And I had found new people
to try things with
who work with your ethic
who love who I am.
My wise friend,
Before you left, I did not know
these virtues had tucked themselves into my heart
like I would tuck my radio into a beach blanket
and hold as close as I held you on that Honda
so I would fashion a life that you would have wanted for me.
I wish I could tell you now.
WHAT POETRY IS FOR
Poetry is for the time
sunset colours splash themselves
onto my south-west window glass,
when salty tears rise through my windpipe
causing my mouth to moan,
when the sharp edges of the words you speak
rip at the pulp of my heart.
poetry is for
capturing starlight in syllables
water cupped in words
my mother’s grace shining
from her great-granddaughter’s eyes.