Author’s page: Janet Smith |

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.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.

For tax deductible donations, click here.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User