Ellen McGrath Smith


Theodore Enslin, poet of Maine, I am closing my eyes to tune you in,
to hear your tender buttons turning inside-out toward reflections
on water, attention to stones. Yet, even though you're using a microphone,
your voice - when it follows softly on the consonantal endings -
leaks through the trough of my hearing loss. It's the same with Robert Creeley;
you and he, on the same frequency that looks like a valley on my chart.
I close my eyes and try to listen with my heart to the Steinean insistence
of your long gray beard, try to soften my long-damaged ears from inoperable
shale to pale pink petals absorbing what sun this stringent coast permits.

Sometimes, this way, I get whole phrases, only to pass through other phases
where stone and skin and soul are blurred, and words fly off like startled birds,
                                                             my eyes into a soundless sky.

Ellen McGrath Smith teaches at the University of Pittsburgh. Poems have appeared in: Kestrel, Oranges & Sardines, Diner, 5 a.m., Oxford Magazine, The Prose Poem, Southern Poetry Review, Descant (Canada), Kestrel, and others. Her critical work is Sagetrieb, The Denver Quarterly, and The American Book Review and other journals. Her work was given a Rainmaker Award from Zone 3 magazine, and, more recently, a 2007 poetry grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.