Poet of the Week: John Warner Smith

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When I was ten years old my stepfather fished
a sparkling new Schwinn bicycle out of the coulee
bordering our back yard. All the boys knew
it had been found. Still, I was the envy of the world,
Bellerophon sailing in the wing breaths of Pegasus,
on my way to conquer Chimera. I named her Silver Bell,
my first girl – all curves and chrome – her frame,
wheels, fenders, headlight and front spring.
I’d spend hours polishing her with 3-In-One oil
and steel wool, tightening every bolt and spoke
with wrenches borrowed from my father’s toolbox.

And then, one July Sunday morning, decades after
I had become a man, Daddy died. Both parents now
gone, I was alone, not knowing what I didn’t know
and couldn’t feel, masking a world broken by grief.
Some nights I only heard howling winds, improvisations
without refrains, boughs bending roughly in the riffs.
Untying tangled threads of blood in a newborn heart,
I caught hold of wings destined for nowhere.
I didn’t think about my dying with their deaths until,
finally, I boxed the last keepsake and buried
a part of me inside the rusted toolbox I left behind.

Originally appeared in Fjords Review

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