“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…”
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.
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.