Courtesy of Rattle.
By Charlie Smith
Terrible beds, soft beds, wily, elusive beds,
beds of half-grown boys, fey and trembling,
dumped on their ear beds of traveling salesmen surprised,
girl beds and virginal young woman beds
matronal expansively expressed beds, I think of these,
recalled to sleep, out of sleep into sleep,
waked early, waked late at night remembering,
drunken beds, sopping watery beds, pissed-in beds,
beds come to me, all I have slept in,
beds I have knelt beside and dreamed of,
bench one foot wide for a bed in Saipan,
hay barn in Turkey bed, dawn like sherbet
naked men stood up out of, trickling weedy beds,
greetings and good-byes from beds,
sullen, imperious beds … there was always a bed,
place to lie down, if only for a pause, in jail
or in the aisle of a bus, berths below decks
diesel smoke and topside typhoon,
Pacific swells, trough and deep six beds for lost sailors,
mountain beds often cold and wet,
sooty nights risen from bed drunk
whirling in the yard lie abed in grass
or among tomato vines and springy corn
love gone from my bed
love lost to another’s, searching the cold
fabrications for clues, bed stains
and scented sheets, beds of humiliation
and scorn, shivering clothed in unheat until dawn
friend appearing through white cloud said
Go now to the neighbors … hot bath like a bed,
and beds of fern and moss
and pine boughs, beds in Istanbul Hotel plush
and beds in Florence and golden Madrid,
southern beds and beds in New England tucked under quilts,
cornfed beds and lit de cassis, and narrow bed of devotion,
bed of love, of endurance,
bed of turmoil and surrender
and change slow to come,
bed of low spoken phrases,
bed of form become style
bed of California grape arbors
and outdoor beds and beds on porches
and beds in back bedrooms where the crazy son died
beds in attics and in upper stories down long stone corridors
beds that trembled and bunk beds
and beds without meaning
beds in trees,
in grass, in fields of clover
beds in fragrant lover’s arms,
beds multiplied into
nights sleepless and disordered in beds,
into nights of confusion and dismay,
of hatred and pride mixed in a sour beam
of persistence, nights of fear,
nights of memory
and applicable recall,
nights of kisses, nights of frankness
passing for truth, nights of delightful smells,
nights on the river, by the sea, inland nights
spoken of in hushed voices, nights by the wayside,
nights come to bed late for no reason,
nights spent for a time sitting on the bathroom floor,
nights and days and the next night in bed
recovering from serious illness, in beds without exits,
beds stepped bold up to, beds
unfolding like mysteries, childhood beds,
the beds of adulthood and youth,
Chinese beds, decent Norwegian beds,
Filipino tropical beds,
stained beds, beds soaked in perfume, striped
and checkered beds, all night spent
beside someone’s bed, beside beds of loved ones,
the bed my father died in burned the next day
in a pit behind the house, my mother’s bed empty
for years, beds of my wives, beds of children
raised from their beds and sent forth into the world,
soft and ample and undivided beds,
nights lingering quietly in the mind,
beds you spoke of as we lay after supper calm in our bed
listening to night come down around us,
settled and consonant, happy in our bed.
By R.T. Smith
In Stetson and calico vest, spandex
and Calvin jeans, she was the best
at the bar. Does Gucci make range boots?
Hers were snakeskin with heels
like railroad spikes. The rest you could
guess: eyes the blue of West Texas yonder,
complexion like hot coffee with cream.
All night I gave her slack but kept
my dally-knot tight, hoping she’d like
the stories I could tell—drunk Indian
twins fighting with icepicks in Cheyenne,
Carolina moonshine, deer breaking open
watermelons out of crazy hunger.
Regular as breath she’d say, “Damn!” or
“Yes!” and stomp a heel through sawdust
to the pine floor. I nearly had the rest
of my life planned out, downing Coors
and forking out for God-knows-whose,
till a dude in a Brooks Brothers suit
moved in, flashing a wad of Andrew
Jacksons like cold cash grew on trees,
and she said to me—she fairly spat it—
“Get lost!” So I did, prostrate all night
in a roadside hay field, watching the sky
sleek as a coal-black stallion’s flank.
Damn if every star wasn’t a spur
burning its wheels into my foolish eyes.
IN THE PARK
By Maxine Kumin
You have forty-nine days between
death and rebirth if you’re a Buddhist.
Even the smallest soul could swim
the English Channel in that time
or climb, like a ten-month-old child,
every step of the Washington Monument
to travel across, up, down, over or through
—you won’t know till you get there which to do.
He laid on me for a few seconds
said Roscoe Black, who lived to tell
about his skirmish with a grizzly bear
in Glacier Park. He laid on me not doing anything. I could feel his heart
beating against my heart.
Never mind lie and lay, the whole world
confuses them. For Roscoe Black you might say
all forty-nine days flew by.
I was raised on the Old Testament.
In it God talks to Moses, Noah,
Samuel, and they answer.
People confer with angels. Certain
animals converse with humans.
It’s a simple world, full of crossovers.
Heaven’s an airy Somewhere, and God
has a nasty temper when provoked,
but if there’s a Hell, little is made of it.
No longtailed Devil, no eternal fire,
and no choosing what to come back as.
When the grizzly bear appears, he lies/lays down
on atheist and zealot. In the pitch-dark
each of us waits for him in Glacier Park.