The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Charlie Smith

Shop Blues


hawks green mire the dead
retriever dumped
in the public
the desolation of a wild night
of storms
the softening of
the brain
after too much
worry you
said we are the ancients
wandering empty halls
the shattered
brilliants and costly receipts we pass
us no help--tiny island chains
of faith
swamped--a small bucket of leftover
attracts rats
lymphocytic choriomeningitis
dropping one tall woman
another testy blonde with a lisp
four sales personnel
in their tracks



Charlie Smith



trees backed off
from basic training, stumped bracken, little to report

from arterial trenches
                        landslides in the next county

water sources
that need looking after

old men oil their weapons
            then lose track of what they had in mind

it’s all right
most days I look at the same calendar

scene of purposeful forgetting
                      local incidents of disrepute

hard fists of balled grass
remnants of great disputes among the cottonwoods

the underrated collections
            of deertongue and switchgrass

nothing here
built for comfort

old cultures dribbled out to gray dreams
                                    at dawn and fogs reeking of tar.



Charlie Smith



…an eternity moving on,
sundown trailing you like a fox,

the dust, and paper lanterns
swaying in ranchhouse windows,

the pelting rain and enormous blank
mountains, someone behind you

pushing audacity as fondness,
a time when you claimed to be okay

with any style good-bye,
a figure—let us say—at the end

of the platform,
biting his ticket like a cyanide pill




CHARLIE SMITH, the author of seven novels and seven books of poetry, has won numerous awards, grants, and fellowships, including the Aga Khan Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, the Paris Review, Harper’s, the New Republic, the New York Times, The Nation, and many other magazines and journals. He taught at Princeton University and was a Coal Royalty Chair holder at the University of Alabama. Three of his novels have been named New York Times Notable Books. His last novel, Three Delays, was a New York Times Editor’s Choice. He lives in New York City.



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