The Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize


Two poems from Eric Smith's Black Hole Factory

followed by a note on the author


Tyrannosaurus Sex

In the loose silt of a riverbed, unlatched
from the wrinkle of gravity that ties them
to the earth, a pair of stegosaurs, displaced
by their buoyancy, overcome their crushing
weight and fall into something that resembles
love: that adolescent grope without thumbs,
that string of synaptic fire tugging the root
of their lizard brain. Ice Ages are forgotten,
as is the chatter of night empty of mammals
lit by volcanic fizz and thick sulfur clouds.
Their bodies, haunted by armies of blade
and bone, are less than welcome to
themselves, much less one another; each
pleasurable bleat met with the tail’s
sharp reminder, its jagged wound.

All of the new theories about dinosaur sex
are guesswork. In this, they are much like
the old ones: cold-blooded and brooding
in the particulars of fossil records & pelvic
plates. But who’s to know if lovemaking
for these thunderous lizards is ineffectual,
the vacancy of coupling likely an invention
of the Pleistocene? Better to think of them
monogamous as shirt sleeves and able
to forgive the arguments of spikes, huddled
against meteoric rains and that fiery end.

But what if the violent ends of their bodies
are the reason the sky has room for stars?
Nature aches for its symmetrical other.
Most bodies are a series of organs, soft
and lacking pairs, and in the frond-
filtered edge of the moon’s waver,
their complements are found in the bend
of knee and wrist. Getting it right can mean
the difference between life and a deadly
splinter, but there, in the widening pool
of night, the twist of their necks
ties the moon to its mirror in the water,
and the stars, blazing out of holes punched
in the black canopy by their quivering tails,
ter the first light on the first night’s love.



Black Hole Factory

In Switzerland, seventeen miles
of tunnels tense their ironclad sleeves
and generators, strung-out like Christmas,
flicker on. The fiber optic clutch
of wire bouquets wriggle along the humming
floor, as a blue-white beam, wrestled
from the heart of a star, hurtles towards
its twin at the other end of the corridor.
Behind the welder’s mask of a window,
you watch the world’s largest particle
accelerator spin its horseless carousel,
and you hope for a continuum tear
to unlatch from the pressure of space and rattle
like a tooth in the mouth of the world.
Every second, a black hole climbs out
of dead stars collapsing under their own
mass. A stray one could devour the planet.
Poof, just like that. A shrinking ring
of blue fire chuffed out like a circle
of candles. This is a risk you understand
and repeat if only to smash the parts together
to sort through the debris; the methane halos
from the sun lying in yellow tatters.
You expected this: the dinner jacket of the universe
turned inside out for the sake of seeing
the lining, as if those feverish origins
of matter mattered. A possibility
exists for it to chew through the narrow
prison of physics and slip, unseen, into
the green world. A week may pass before
it gobbles up the last few continents,
the mirage the survivors keep in front of them,
until their whimpers are replaced
by an absence in the equation of time:
our place, finally, a single black hole
of almost zero size orbiting the sun.





Eric Smith is an editor for Cellpoems, a txt-message based literary journal. His poems appear or are forthcoming in Five Points, Greensboro Review, Measure, Pleiades, and Smartish Pace. Recent reviews of Charles Wright and William Stafford are available on the National Book Foundation website:

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The Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize