[Table of Contents]


Bruce Smith


I was a Soulist, blinking homunculus, with the buzz of the

One end of the telephone was I

molecules making me sentimental, a ESP

she was on the other end, my mother, measuring the ticks

of feeling coming from the memory of still photographs

outraged at the cost of the long distance call, imagining

the mushroom cloud and nullifying atoms, seraphs

patched-through communiqué from Iwo to Kwajalein to Philadelphia

in the background behind mother/father, one with downpours

during the war when the gyrenes manned the switchboards

of light obliterating the faces or shadowing faces of the adored

I was acquainted with the life and longing

I was a Soulist when I felt something

prodigal in her estimation, impractical, interior

looking into the Grand Canyon that was maybe looking

boy in her estimation, a profligate monk, decadence

itself and not I, not some subcutaneous blush

of one who did not know the depression or did not make

of the languorous, a dreamy dream like the rush

the sacrifice: the phone is the fetish of the hidden face

of the narcotic perfume of the real in musical

hushed and belled like the egotistical sublime

or infantile forms: like the sheets thrown over the furniture (soulful)

my feeling (coiled and choked back) or the grand enterprise

in foreign films (all that sad finale) or sheets over you:

bandaged as the voices were crossed by

ghost or sham Klansman: artifacts of other than you

radio where she subdued the Loas, the

white, Italian, English, something, the one-quarter Russian Jew

Voodoo gods (of muggles and mood indigo, of shame and swoon)

you looked like a Korean

she had to be the conscience of the

boy in the photos, a boy in his protean

body I inhabited like the zombie

forms of statue or satyr, playing war or base

who went after the bitch goddess to the

ball: sampling a stance from the young Willie Mays

paradise of fields where I worked

and so the soul was formed in Westfield, Alabama

(I wanted a car and a vacation, was this too much

or in the dust of Puerto Rico, each occasion a drama

to ask of a vocation?) My calling was

of becoming or inventing a feeling that dissolved

measureless self and measureless other, nothing special

or feeling it, an amplitude or a terribilità that you later

Later I learned it was my poverty that was

learned was Michaelangelo or a blow to the solar plexus, greater

the reason I called, tangled as it was in her economy

than the sentiments of white flowers, the face of the first born, or the smoky tenor

and my need to sound the terrible unknowing

the cloud over a pond, the sea and New Jersey

I felt in my acquaintance (I can't say life) the world

My heart sutra said (soulfully) there must be a fallacy

I said the anecdote or incident, my testimony

to the pathetic hankering, the ash from the fire in the belly

of untold secrets and the reflexive verbs

and your class warfare and your sympathies are spoils

of fear about her and for me and fear

of soul. I pled allegiance to the rainbowed and oily

of orphanhood. Before she hung up she extracted

cloud that floated free of mattering yet mattered to me

promises of reflexive visits I resisted

I was a Soulist until I found myself smelling the honeysuckle

Then she hung up and ended all my apostrophe

and loving my cozy place by the beautiful

Mother Mambo, squeeze every O and corpuscle

while carving crosses on the foreheads of the infidels

of slaves' blood from my veins.