“From Around Here” and “Drought, Rome”: poems by Ron Smith.

Two kinds of heat compete for misery.

“You plunge into the world. You roll the dice.
You make new friends, a few, or maybe none…”
Centro commerciale, umbrellas in sunshine. Gunver Hasselbalch. Watercolor, 2016.

From Around Here

-

The heat, damned heat — and now humidity.

A hundred-plus miles from the beach and yet

just like Savannah, the very air wet.

No shaded squares, no Spanish moss, no sea,

only good old-fashioned Southern misery.

Our friends back home ask, “Are y’all still up North?”

“No,” we say, again compelled to hold forth

about Tredegar, Jeff Davis, and General Lee.

Cuts no ice. “Yankee Land,” I’ve heard at least twice.

They know we’re a short drive from Washington.

We miss the marsh, the palms, Saint Patrick’s Day.

You plunge into the world. You roll the dice.

You make new friends, a few, or maybe none.

Waiters say “Hi” not “Hey.” You make your way.

……………………………………………………

Santissima. Gunver Hasselbalch. Watercolor, 2016.

Drought, Rome

-

Thank God we’re not there to see the fountains

dry. Hot enough in Trastevere even when

there’s water everywhere. And when the men

hoist the Madonna through the streets, their sin

glistens on their grimaces, drops to the stones

named for St. Peter, flecks of sweat along

via della Lungaretta that the throng,

crossing itself, ignores. It hurts my bones

to watch them, even the youngest straining

under the Virgin’s throne. Before, they bend

to the nasone in the piazza;

after, below the poet’s marble spats

and iron cane. Pray today it’s raining

and every silent mouth open to heaven.

***************************************

Ron Smith is a former Poet Laureate of Virginia. Currently Writer-in-Residence at Saint Christopher’s School in Richmond, he is the author of the books Running Again in Hollywood Cemetery (University Press of Florida) and three books from LSU Press: Moon Road, Its Ghostly Workshop, and The Humility of the Brutes. In 2018 he was a Featured Poet at the American Library in Paris, where he also read new poems in the Salon Eiffel on the Eiffel Tower.