the grass has gone cold and white
like the ox bone soup you brewed for me in bowls of China
all those years ago and only eight years after
you cradled the shattered head of your student at Kent State,
you living nominally in and out of psychiatric hospitals
forever after, buying soup bones the shape of emptied skulls,
pouring boiling water over them and serving them as broth
with muttered words like “water washes all away.”
You were a professor, teaching English Lit
and were surrounded by a growing wordless worldwide rage
as all our children, ours and Vietnam’s, were butchered
in cataclysmic capitalistic testosterone and greed,
and you taught Auden’s and Ginsberg’s Oms and words
and pushed out against the walls and made your classroom
big as all outdoors until that day the bullets crashed in
at the walls of our sanity, that blood from which you
and I would never recover and wherever you lived
beyond that day you would eat of bone soup in sterile cups.
you have been beneath the cold white grass
with all your other lovers except for me. I was but
a student in a small college a thousand miles away
marching and signing petitions to end the war
and drinking with my buddies in the evenings
but I too felt the tearing of flesh that day the bullets flew,
even I, the thud of metal into flesh and the loss of love,
the flowers falling dead upon the ground across America
in that age of youth and freedom and love at sudden end.
I carry these stone hard bones across America
with their hollow eyes staring out at billboards
broken homes homeless children in the gutters
and the cars of wealthy despots going nowhere.
And again in this year of shining metal and dark hearts
the monster grows again, growls within its rage,
finds me raising arms again even at my age.
The bones grow heavy and the bowls are deep,
and the water burns but does not wash away.
JARED SMITH has a hand-stitched chapbook titled A Season of Significance: Poems Within The Pandemic coming out from River Press this February, and his 15th full-length book of poetry, A Sphere Encased In Fires And Life, from NYQ Press next fall. A native New Yorker, he lives in Colorado.