Smoke and Mirrors

Smoke & Mirrors

The poems in this collection are some of my most personal. Though many are about the loss of family, they also speak of the way the dead go on living, always present in our lives.

Sample Poems from Smoke and Mirrors

About the Dead

What children understand about the dead
is how they cling to life, how they assert
their sentiments and preferences, instead
of giving up the ghost. Children, alert
to stirrings of the air, to whispers,
hushed voices in the kitchen, strain to hear
their soft footfalls. The dead cannot be rushed
into the afterlife. They linger near
their loved ones, listening and leaving clues—
a bar of yellow light across the floor,
scents of earth and river, muddy shoes,
missing change, the creaking of a door.
They wait for signs, longing for us to mention
their names, insatiable for our attention.

In Another City

On a line by Sam Byfield

The yellow moon, the factories, brief snow—
I’m only passing through aboard a train
streaking through your night, Once, long ago,
in another dingy city, in light rain,
I lingered at the station with some lover
or other, someone arriving or departing—
both of us young and destined to discover
absence. The old story’s always starting
or ending. And the chapters in between
slip by like nameless towns along the way.
The drifting moon and snow, a view I’ve seen
a hundred times. A woman dressed in gray
waits on the platform. I notice, as we pass,
my own face through the window’s misted glass.

Smoke and Mirrors

My sister dressed in the colors of water
and stone, walked out on foggy mornings
in search of misted rivers,
folded herself into low-lying clouds.

She insisted that none of this
was for the purpose of deception.
It’s a matter of becoming

accustomed, she said. It’s incremental.

She studied the art of graceful sleight:
To take her leave without notice, without
a visible stirring of air, as if dying
were only another illusion.

The hard part is what to do with the body,
she told me. The rest is nothing.
It’s easy to disappear.

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