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Posts Tagged ‘Mark Smith-Soto’

Waiting for you is full of everything except you.

It didn’t start out to be Valentine’s Day. You and I prefer Hatteras and Pea Island in the off season. I wanted to see the winter migrant visitors again and you don’t mind long walks in freezing spray. How amazing you are. You began telling our friends, “He wants to see the snow geese,” in a tone that sounded like you looked forward to them, too. Amazing.

When we pulled into the First Colony Inn there were big pink and red plywood hearts under the pine trees. Who knew! Godiva on the pillows and champagne in the mini-fridge. Each afternoon we explored another iced-over marsh, the entirely vacant Elizabethan Gardens, narrow lines of threatened dunes; each night we made a small supper in our room, wore caps & jackets while the wind discovered new cracks around the windows. Not really roughing it, not so self-sufficient – but sufficient as two selves. Us. Being each other’s present. Chocolate optional.

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Chen caerulescens, Pea Island Wildlife Refuge

 

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I’ve read most of Mark Smith-Soto’s previous books and I always pause and savor when I discover him again in The Sun. I carefully packed his newest, Time Pieces, for the February trip to the Outer banks. Waited for the stillness of sunset across Roanoke Sound, drew another blanket around my shoulders. How does he do it? How capture the small moment that stretches wide the reader’s heart? Not because the poem has cast searchlights into the grand gnostic meaningfulness of the universe, but because the poem is just itself, the poet is himself, the moment is this moment. And we always have been and are still becoming ourselves.

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Present

Waiting for you at our favorite table by
the window decorated with a rough decal
of a giant coffee cup, I stare at the long,
gray, rain-washed, car-clotted street, the tip

of my tongue fretting against a cracked
tooth. You’re half an your late. You wouldn’t wait.
The coffee is so dark and smooth it lingers like
a song. There are clouds and telephone poles

and two tattooed youngsters smoking outside
the window; inside, all is chatter and clatter,
French pastries in the toaster oven, giggly laughter.
Waiting for you is full of everything except you.

And for this gift, at least, I must thank you:
this moment so completely mine.

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Present first appeared in Sounds of Poets Cooking, Jacar Press

Time Pieces is available from Main Street Rag Publishing

Read more selections of Mark’s poetry from The Sun.  In fact, subscribe.  Now!

Mark Smith-Soto’s bio is available at the Poetry Foundation.

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Sometimes when the latest Audubon arrives in the post I dread reading it.  Unsustainable logging in old growth forests in Oregon threatens the marbled murrelet.  Ground water depletion by development in the San Pedro watershed (the major undammed river corridor in the entire intermountain West) may destroy twenty years of conservation gains.  American eel populations have declined ninety percent in the past four decades because of obstructing dams in Eastern rivers.

Does it ever seem to you that we humans just can’t get along with the other species on this planet?  The neighbors cats have eaten most of “my” house finches.  Just one careless chicken farmer upstream on the Big Elkin Creek is enough to silt up what could have been a decent trout stream.  Last week we had to replace about forty yards of sewer line on the steep ridge behind our house, plowing under at least a tenth of an acre of prime wild red raspberries.

I walked along the scraped red clay and exposed roots under the power lines down to the manhole where our sewer ties into the city.  Given the previously impenetrable briars, it was a new perspective on our little four-acre plot in the woods.  I hadn’t realized how massive that sentinel white oak had become in the thirty years we’ve lived here.  It has a Virginia Creeper hanging from it as thick as my arm.  And since the backhoe has knocked down a dozen or so gangly box elders, there’s enough sunlight seeping into our backyard that I’ve sown a pound of wildflower seed . . . after my daughter Margaret and I had picked about a pint of raspberries from canes we’d never been able to reach before.

In New England, a naturalist named Chris Bowser has set up a citizen stewardship program using net-filled PVC pipe to lift eels above the dams and enable them to complete their migration.  My friend Bill Blackley and a local crew are building hiking trails and restoring Big Elkin Creek to make it trout-worthy.  Virginia letter-carrier Rita Shultz has installed a hundred and ten bluebird houses along her route (in her time off) to prevent the birds from nesting in newspaper boxes, and prevent people from tossing out the nests, eggs, chicks and all.  And since February loggerhead turtles, piping plovers, least terns – and dozens of other nesting species – have a safer home on Hatteras Island: the National Park Service issued a new rule that allows off-road vehicles on 28 miles of shoreline, preserving the other 39 miles for wildness.

We might just get to go on living next door to critters.  We might just be able to pump from our hearts enough compassion for critters to make a place for them to go on living next door to us.

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Bubble

The heat hunkers trenchant, loud.
Lilies are budding on the lake.
Calf-high grass quivers.

He has wanted this moment to exist:
the insect flares blue on a sticky branch,
opening and closing, the size of his hands.

He heart pumps a bubble over the world:
it holds.

Mark Smith-Soto
© 1990 by Trans Verse Press.

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Mark Smith-Soto is professor of Spanish at UNC Greensboro and has been chairman of the Department of Romance Languages.  His poems appear frequently in the monthly magazine Sun.  He has served as editor or associate-editor of International Poetry Review since 1992.  His first full-length book of poetry, Our Lives Are Rivers , was published by Florida University Press in the summer of 2003.  Born in Washington, D.C., Mark grew up in his mother’s native Costa Rica.

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The photo of Jordan’s red-cheeked salamander (Plethodon jordani) was taken near Clingman’s Dome along the Appalachian Trail in 2003.  The cute little Appalachian cottontail (Sylvilagus obscurus) eating jewelweed beneath the stand of bee balm was at Cosby Knob Shelter on the AT (also GSMNP)  in 2007.

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