Author’s page: Janet Smith
Some want loneliness to be a disease
cured with God or self-help books
or a vacation in a sunny town
where it’s too hot to think.
At this corner where
no one stands, and no bus comes
as the wind blows and bows us down
loneliness makes its demands.
I say we hold its hand,
thank it for its faithfulness,
bring it, proud and shivering,
to every empty bed.
Loneliness is part of the transaction
we made when we asked,
Where did I come from?
Then listened for the answer.
The light lies like a dirty sheet.
No news arrives, no lotteries announce
their winners, no letter from the long-
-lost lover will reach its destination.
It tries to rain, but squeezes out only
a drop. Trees sag with weariness, all
that sky to fill up. On these days, cops
give tickets for jaywalking, lose
faith in their lives. The drinker puts
the last shot he hadn’t meant to order
on his tab. Downs it anyway. What else
is there to do but get through them?
Then a day comes, clean as a licked
puppy. The air tightens around your
skin; everything wants to be touched
by you. A bird flies toward your head.
You are ready for what will happen next.
The check is in the mailbox, a stray
dog licks your hand. Each window
swarms with light–it enters you as light
enters a forest. This day keeps faith
with happy endings, betting long shots,
lucky pennies. The drinker walks
past the bar. The lover turns the corner.
This time you’ll get
the rubber-band gun your
mother claimed was dangerous.
There will be bakery cake
with a volcano and a hula dancer on top.
The punch will be red and sweet enough
to hurt your gums.
No one will care if you spill it on your dress.
Your parents won’t fight about money
in front of your friends.
The sun will stay out.
Everyone will be allowed to use the Slip ‘n’ Slide.
No one will break an arm.
Your best friend won’t have to go home early.
A man with a mustache and white gloves
will perform card tricks.
He won’t goof them up.
Your dad will barbeque hot dogs
without discussing nitrates.
He won’t call them wieners in front of your friends.
A pinata in the shape of a clipper ship
is hung where the chandelier used to be.
You will be allowed to swing at it with a baseball bat.
In the garage, the acrobats are practicing their leaps.
A small petting zoo is setting up.
Your mother has arranged games of skill and chance;
it’s just like the midway she wouldn’t let you enter.
Later, the fortune teller will read palms.
She has already told your parents
you’ll be a famous writer.
No one loses a tooth; no one cries.
A note that says I LOVE YOU will be
slipped into your hand.
There will be no pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey.
Everyone is allowed to sleep over.
When you blow out the candles,
you’ll get one wish.
It will really come true.
You can have a quarter horse stabled
in the storage shed. Your parents
will stop hating each other.
You will learn to be a sword swallower.
Janet Smith began college at 35 after a string of jobs in Yosemite National Park. She graduated with an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Minnesota in 2001. She is a past recipient of a Nevada Arts Board Fellowship in poetry and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her first book of poetry, “All of Sudden Nothing Happened,” will be published this month. She is on faculty in the English Department at Lake Tahoe Community College.
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