ISSUE FOUR
August 1998

R.T. Smith

R.T. Smith R.T. Smith, the editor of Shenandoah, has poems in recent issues of Poetry, The Georgia Review, Black Warrior Review, The Southern Review, Atlantic Monthly, and Poetry Northwest. His Trespasser (LSU, 1996) and Hunter-Gatherer (Livingston, 1996) were both nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. His latest, Split the Lark: Selected Poems, will be issued next year by Salmon Press in Ireland.
Charity    Read Along with the Author


On the Wexford Road — sun
glinting, black frost hard
on the tarmac — I think of

Saint Aiden of Ferns,
a Connaught man stern
with grace. I have

seen in Dublin the bronze
case where his hand
bones and cross reposed

for centuries. He fed
strays and even the chapel
mice. Caught short

of alms one market day,
the holy brother bestowed
his horse on a beggar.

Reproached by a neighbor,
Aiden asked, "Is yon son
of a mare more precious

than yon son of God?"
Outside Kilurin this morning
where the road forks,

the young blackthorns
and birches are bare
as finger bones or

skeleton keys to heaven.
They could become
the relics of serious

Aiden, who kept at
Bishop's work, shrift
and strife, till at last

he happily surrendered
his breath and left his
form in a crypt.

Now legions of pilgrims
unsteady with greed
or sorrow of pain

can walk this cold road
and learn to be generous
as I yearn to be

empty and free
by following his path
and kneeling to warm

my brow on a stone.

 

 

A Lasting Fire    Read Along with the Author


Not the quick flare
of Duraflame's pine
chips and chemicals

roaring up the flue
until the sham fire
smothers and dies,

but the yellow whisper
of a single match
small as a pen nib,

palm-cupped and
yielding its secret
to splinters. Then heat

will follow a ceder
curl's rim to catch
a split stick, wishbone

oak and skinned
poplar. Who keeps
a careful vigil,

lending skill
and breath, will see
the pile of twigs

ignite, the heart's
every fiber shedding
the steady light

of splendid method
and calm conviction
slowly going wild.

 

 

R.T. Smith: Poetry
Copyright 1999 The Cortland Review Issue FourThe Cortland Review