Erin Elizabeth Smith

Dear John
for John

I get it now.  Half a decade later
as I watch the wind race the leaves
down my rain-black street
face wrecked from puffed
up promises that linger in blood.
I don’t want to dream you
but I do, you in that same wooden house
always turning the knob with surprise,
the wrists of your shirts
ringed at the elbow.
There is always a woman
just beyond that nostril of your door,
cross-legged on the floor looking up
at me not like I’m a rainstorm
or the phantom of the woman I was.

I don’t know you now,
but I remember you paralyzed
on the grey-sheeted bed, how I touched
the flat of my palm to your back
wondering what hands to put on to heal,
how there is nothing in beauty
that makes up for loss, the deception
of birds, the way they sound like memories
in dark attics. 

Six months divorced and you are all
I come back to, the way you would empty
into the still of Urbana streets,
as static as the childhood toys
that float forever on abandoned lawns
like the way I come to you at night,
thinking of what you saw in me,
how I must have looked like her
so perfectly young and dark-boned.
How you found me
like I look for men now, as hurt
and as clutching as you.

Erin Elizabeth Smith is the author of The Fear of Being Found (Three Candles Press 2008) and The Naming of Strays (Gold Wake Press 2011). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including 32 Poems, New Delta Review, Yalobusha Review, Water~Stone, Cimarron Review, and Crab Orchard Review. She teaches in the English Department at the University of Tennessee and serves as the managing editor of Stirring: A Literary Collection and the Best of the Net Anthology.

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