He wanted something to happen but it would not.
—“A Supernatural Narrative”
In this stunningly wrought collection, Dave Smith presents a galaxy of souls searching for “something” through the dusty lens of a lost faith. If religion is the arena in which we engage ultimate meaning, then these are religious poems indeed, prayers and meditations of the cosmically disenfranchised looking for a sign among the detritus of a broken world: “Lord, admit / us, we lived here, almost happy, almost yours.” But where, really, are we? And how, and why, did we get here?
Pulsing, carefully orchestrated, these thirteen-line poems are tightly wound miracles of compression, alive with texture and color, sharp with the raw flavors of sex, blood, and sea-wrack, ready to explode off the page. Ranging from youth, all moonlight and speed and violent ecstasy, through the fierce disillusionment of middle age to the final decline, snagged on “memory’s hook”; from the sun-shot desolation of the contemporary American South to the faded marmoreal glory of Europe, Smith forges a craggy metaphysics that stops just this side of despair, finding Delphic moments of affirmation of our kinship with the physical world, as in the quiet beauty of “Lunch,” a poetic still life worthy of Vermeer:
The shade is cold but the courtyard’s filled
with flume of light, the soul’s warm surround
I bring my lunch to: Vienna bread homemade,
local cheese, its wedged hunks like marigolds
yellow and sharp, bologna’s muscle added,
and mustard to make the eyes weep, and beer,
beaded Dutch, a fistful of chips, an orange
deftly sliced so, unbruised, inner light’s let out.
Fate’s Kite presents a major American poet, a master, working at the height of his powers.
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