Dirge for an Imaginary World
— Poems by Matthew Buckley Smith
With a Foreword by Greg Williamson
Paperback ~ $16.95
(Able Muse Press, 2012)
Casting its vacant arcs across the lawn.
All night its clockwork tends to every flower
Bedded down here to bury roots and spawn,
While, nowhere in particular, my friend,
Who just last week lay mumbling on a cot,
Is dead, is nothing time or work can mend,
Though his machinery remains to rot
As I walk late at night across a campus
Hundreds of miles away, which is to say
As near to him as anywhere, and tempus
Fugit no less irreparabile
From me than from the blossoms here and there
Who do not know their lot, and do not care.
We missed you less—believing you were unaware
Of what was happening, of the unlikely reasons
You’d be replaced. We liked to think you free of care.
That was your role: our stout, thick-snouted kin. Ill-fated
But oblivious, you fed and dozed and mated.
And found your skulls allowed for brains as big as ours,
Or bigger, making room for fleeting dreams and deft
Apologies on deathbeds richly spread with flowers.
In desert chambers lay the artifacts of pain
You must have felt at losing those you knew you’d join.
Across the bones of your own tribe, to strip fresh meat.
You mastered fire, you cooked. Maybe you even spent
Odd noiseless moments sulking, feeling desolate.
We’ve done much worse, and better, in our hopeful age,
Strutting our share of hours and more upon the stage.
And like to think I understand those minds that gave
Form to the world the way our own minds do. What fools
We were to tiptoe from the darkness of your cave,
Leaving you there to murmur God’s name in a tongue
That died before it could evolve beyond a song.
Matthew Buckley Smith was born in Atlanta, Georgia. He earned his MFA in poetry at the Johns Hopkins University. His poems have appeared, or will soon appear in various magazines, including Beloit Poetry Journal, Commonweal, Iron Horse Literary Review, Measure, The Alabama Literary Review, Think Journal, and Best American Poetry 2011. His poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, Joanna.