Ian C. Smith

At the end of the day

(for Lisa)

After attending a funeral

of one who died beloved

but too young

I have lost track of the trembling world.

The black pen lies still.

What can I say?

So I read again my favourite poet’s work

written as he was dying.

Boughs scrape my roof

stirred by a night wind.

Pictures and photos embrace me.

School art colours warm my bedroom walls

as if safeguarding me.

Our boys with time on their side.

They are taller now

swept along by lusty life.


These poems daunt me

humanity haunting each wise line

clear thoughts amid chaos

medals for valour

in the face of withering knowledge.

I glance one more time at the photos

those fresh faces

their time on this earth ahead.





Opposite the horizon of the dark sea,

bending, rattling, she can’t make the gas surge,

shields a small flame, sputtering.

She might as well have landed in a squat.

Only the stove will light up, just,

not the hot water, nor the fridge,

that stove’s wan heat in constant danger.


She fumes, needing tea’s habit, a shower,

needier still for the comfort of wrongs put right.

He slumps on the sullen periphery

of this gas bottleneck, this powerlessness,

knowing they gaze in different directions,

a man with anniversaries of battles.

Outside, a sombre sky, wind skirling.


A wasps’ nest caused the mini-crisis,

abandoned in the narrow copper pipe,

a paperiness lighter than sea air,

now blown away, disappeared, like time.

He stays up late reading a novel by gaslight

about the way love fades at the edges.

She sleeps, exhausted by the heft of the day.



Poet as ageing narcissist



He watches himself in the third person

at this gathering of his blood

marking a Round Figured Birthday,

hair, beard beyond mid-life grey,

not ageing well like wine or cheese,

a mockery of pulsing yesterday

which, like other damning birthday evidence,

astonishes him, and, perhaps, his clansmen.


He stands to read.  They watch him

watching himself, uncertain, like him,

as he mimes patting pockets for poems,

whether to smile or exchange glances,

so they, watchers and watched,

moderate their expressions,

stay cool, will a heel-crunch of any emotion,

preferring the relief of effete jokes,

hope his voice doesn’t crack like his mind.


They make him weak, they make him strong.

He knows they discuss his increasing lapses

when he drifts off to the word sanctuary,

forgetful blunders that once never were,

so makes the effort to stay in tune,

drawing close to black night’s fire

though a yearning to cast off lures him

to travel light with his failing old pals,

imagination, memory, the first person.





A billowy ruckus of air, hammering

her dark thoughts, a staccato sound of war.

The pilot covering the famous yacht race

lands his helicopter on flat rocks

to collect his annual order of crayfish.

Stilled, their view is a sea eagle’s

from the small mountain they must climb.


This time she gets his smell of napalm joke,

prefers the dewy morning’s eucalyptus scent,

the enduring islands in the glittering strait.

A wallaby bounds across their track,

distracting her from the direction marker.

She misses it, and he corrects her,

another irritation, like his movie quips.


They see the helicopter lift off, bank,

circle the cove three times in farewell,

a gunmetal dragonfly flashing low

against the murky violet of scrub and scree,

the sea flogged by the blades’ commotion.

He strains to keep its ghostly flicker in sight.

On the track she seems to disappear like a dream.







I moved only a few miles away, but long ago.

Walking around where I once lived

I feel like one who has been in far exile,

wondering why I have neglected this return,

discomfited smelling the tangy neighbourhood,

wood smoke, breakfast cooking, scattered leaves,

calculating sequences of events

involving my people in the clandestine past,

now vague, unlike memorable town landmarks.


In thrall crossing driveways I strain to recall

exactly what led to this estrangement

but chronological memory baffles me,

details waver, shadowy facts confusing.

I bear what seems like guilty sorrow.

For moving away?  For being memory-drunk?

The town’s pool where our boy learned to swim,

superseded, of course, by a heated facility,

lies eerily quiet, its black water still.


I swerve toward the safety of my parked car,

leaving what can never be left.

Short-cutting through familiar back lanes

behind houses where newcomers spend days,

I pass a fence so rickety-faded

it could date from my boyhood.

I feel overcome by loss, imagined echoes,

want that fence imbued with its original hue,

straight, strong again.

Promote. Poetry.
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