Bruce Smith

of Syracuse, NY

Winner of the William Carlos Williams Award in 2012

DEVOTION: FLY
 

A fly like an envoy for the Lost Boys or a delegate sent to dicker with the dead.
Buzz wants out or in?  Does it descend from one who grazed the face
of Dickinson and whispered in her ear the middle octave key of F? 
Does it want nectar or the dead, and which am I?  Vectors for fugue
and spontaneous bruising. Vectors for pestilence and gods who call
for sacrifice.  Shit seraph, heaven worm, world eye, scholar bent over
the heated pages of the Coptic translating the words matter and heaven
in its three-week paradiso.  Fly worries everything.  Fly walks on the ceiling. 
Fly works its rosary, a discalced nun of doubt, our intercessionary,
while we are free to be evermore certain about our God and the war. 
Fly buzzes in the blown-open pages of the tiny novellas everyone carries
scattered like dreams in which we were all the characters.  Fly already at it,
its story, a second-hand story, before smoke and a steel-blue wash
over everything.  Looking up the way the myrmidons looked up
at the sun, skeptical, sweaty while they killed the ram and ewe,
strung the bow, lifted timbers.  It was their job to fight
for someone's love and rage, someone's beauty worth dying for.

 

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Elizabeth Macklin on Bruce Smith

The fifty-eight devotions in Bruce Smith's Devotions could have been written only now: they faithfully reflect the world as it is and yet, by a miracle, don't go to pieces. Like several of the other books published last year (Wayne Miller's still more serene The City, Our City and Camille T. Dungy's plainer and more plainspoken Smith Blue, to mention two), Devotions is an act of enviably sustained attention which documents, or sings, our collective madness without desiring to imitate it. Bruce Smith has seemingly inhaled the entire English language to date and in Devotions he uses those words and half-words with a wild tact that draws a reader onward, quickwittedness overcoming dread. Each poem here is a stand-alone object, in which short rhythms nest inside longer rhythms, which in turn persist within the still longer rhythm of the whole. Nothing is purposeless. It's work first to fall into and then to contemplate, with equal patience, poem by poem or line by line. Brutal and delicate at once, Smith's book has the sadness of, in the phrasing of his "Devotion: Obbligato," "songs / made in the ratio / of bruise for bruise."

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