Three Poems by Chelsey Weber-Smith
One day someone important will say this is not a poem
so I’ll join a traveling carnival, man the booth where kids shoot water
into the mouths of ceramic clowns until one balloon nose pops.
The more people who compete, the bigger the prize.
Even the tattoo on the forearm of the carny from Mineral will touch
me deeper. It was for his father, Vietnam vet, I imagine him pulling
back his dad’s hair to examine a sickle cut he got from falling off
his chair drunk. The way it took a few seconds to appear,
like a moon from behind a milky cloud.
A father like that you love like a child so when he dies it’s different.
When he dies maybe you go somewhere bright and loud
that is always moving. At night we will drink beer and
I will take up smoking just so I can hear about his father,
how even though he drank he was never mean.
How he taught his son to treat women like they should be carried
on the backs of men so that their feet never touch the ground.
I’ll hear about his mother, how one day he woke up, poured cereal into a bowl
and found a note taped to the milk carton saying this is not because of you.
How he found her ten years later on a real estate ad in
Southern California, how his dad never said a bad word about her.
I’ll sit out there listening long enough to see him cry for just a second,
see his hand cradle his brow for just a moment and then he will smile.
He’ll ask me what in the hell I am doing here, sitting with him
drinking beer under the dull black sky. The bulbs of the Ring of Fire
will circle with deep red light, the grass at our shoes gone almost to straw.
Walking up and down the same strip of land
three times, four. It is Friday night and all the new
college kids are drunk and dressed like butterflies.
My company is everyone I’ve ever hurt and they
sit on steel chairs in a circular room in my gut
and stomp along to the fight songs I never finished writing.
I won’t get into specifics; let’s just say my heart’s a little overcooked tonight.
Let’s just say our dead are exactly where they thought they wouldn’t be tonight.
Let’s just say that the eye contact I am sharing with the people on the street
and the people in my gut is something my thin heart just can’t take.
Say I could hold their eyes, go deeper, cut precisely down my center with a box-cutter—
would you see something? The hands of your eyes enter mine to the elbow. I’m a couch
and a floor and something is stuck way underneath me, a simple, crucial thing
and I’d say there’s even a glint to it. Or I’m an oyster and your thumbs can split me easily,
you can suck me into your mouth like a tongue but I never liked to be kissed like that.
There’s a pearl in there like a tongue stud, one you didn’t notice until we kissed for real.
Upon taking off my shirt several people have been shocked by the silver in my navel
and then immediately put it into their mouths. We always want the shine to enter our bodies.
We all want to contain that secret glow.
Li Po, I heard your drunk ass tried to embrace the moon and drowned
There’s no boat for me to row out in,
no lake for the moon to slop its tongue onto
like the dog it is, too eager, rising too early,
faithfully routine but always begging, always pulling
at the hem of the ocean with its teeth.
What a miracle you loved it, too, kicking desire’s law
right at the knee, your little tea cake, your little
downy dog, something for you to put your mouth on.
I’d love to love anything at all.
Chelsey Weber-Smith is a recent graduate of the University of Virginia’s MFA program in poetry. She also writes country music and rambles around the United States. She has written and self-published two chapbooks, a travel memoir, and two full-length folk/country albums. She currently lives in Seattle. Selected by Rochelle Hurt
Image “Full Moon Collage” ©rae diamond
Read the Editorial Note for Issue 1