Literary Yard

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‘America’ and other poems by J.L. Smith

By: J.L. Smith


a patchwork quilt,
a coat of many colors,
at the seams.

Frayed edges,
bare in patches across its broad surface.
Fabric squares, once crisp,
from many origins,
comfort for all who sought
and admired its warmth.

Bound by heavy thread,
woven with craftsmanship and pride,
it pulls apart in areas
of the most tension,
the most friction,
the most wear.

Lady Liberty sits by,
as her torch dims
in shame.

Her work falls
into disrepair.
She hides her face in her tablet,
her quilt one step away from the recycling bin,
its final resting place.


Silence is the Wind

Silence is the wind that blows
through the cracks of the house,
creaks that mark each step at 2 a.m.,
when everyone is sleeping.
Clock ticks each second,
marking each breath you take,
glass cutting your heart,
words throbbing your brain
with thoughts you dare not repeat.
you wish you had never had.

His departure,
steps descending
the outside stairs,
is the worst thing you felt
the anticipation of his return.


My House of Usher

I took you by the house
because it was important
for you to see its damage.
The old colonial had fallen
inches down from the top of the hill,
like it was placing just a toe
into the creek below,
but froze there before taking the chance,
sat there withered,
crushed by time,
fallen snow.

As a teenager, the fallen house terrified me,
sliding down the hill,
waiting to pounce me
as soon as my hot summer feet
touched the cool water.

I wanted to show you
something different
that meant something to me.
How its brokenness,
windowless front
meant something to me.
Its quiet beauty,
an attempt to run away,
but afraid to do so:
forever frozen in contemplation.


The Painting

You like the painting of Mt. Fuji
even more after he tells you to take it down.
It is crooked again.
Three panels never lined up straight,
even with the aid of a leveling rod.
It’s perfect the way it is, you say,
but he shakes his head.
It’s crooked.
It looks stupid.
How can you say something so crooked is perfect?

His face scowls.
He puts the final panel back,
leaves you alone with Fuji,
its warm sun,
cloudless sky,
still, but glistening waters.

All that you wanted it to be:
but perfect in a happy way.


Our Tragic Kingdom

was made of bad 80s power ballads
fused into 90s era grunge.
We believed in formulas,
boy and girl meet by luck
or fortune cookie fate
in the first stanza:
the slow, intense,
attention grabbing start,
followed by the energetic chorus
of infatuation and destiny.

But, the hero is always wrong,
the couple is never right:
fists held high,
lips cut in the night.

We were supposed to come back
by the bridge,
before the guitar solo,

but the resolution never found
its third verse.
We walked away
in the middle of the night
with words we could not speak,
going silently into the dark:

hush, hush darling.


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