Issue > Poetry
Robert Lavett Smith

Robert Lavett Smith

Robert Levett Smith, raised in New Jersey, has lived since 1987 in San Francisco, where for the past fifteen years he has worked as a Special Education Paraprofessional. He has studied with Charles Simic and Galway Kinnell. He is the author of several chapbooks and two full-length poetry collections, the most recent of which is Smoke In Cold Weather: A Gathering of Sonnets (Full Court Press, 2013).

Rice Balls

Rice balls wrapped in aluminum foil:
that's the image that keeps turning up.
Sultan School, Honolulu, 1961.
A classmate who wore a steel helmet
to protect the place where the plates
of his skull hadn't closed,
leaving his brain vulnerable
beneath a thin sheath of hair, skin,
and flesh. The way his eyes
rolled uneasily in orbits of their own
as though perpetually fixed
on something no one else could see.
How his delicate, tea-colored hands,
so clumsy on the playground
with a ball, deftly manipulated
chopsticks with a dexterity
I cannot manage even today.
The silence that seemed sewn
onto lips from which no words
ever issued, busy as they were
with the simple, primal act of eating;
the quietly graceful dance of rice;
the sticks from which not one
grain ever fell.

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