Two poems from Todd Smith’s The Weather Gods
followed by a note on the author
Strawberry Pickers, Nauvoo
Eleven thousand years ago the last
glacier scraped through this field.
Transmuted by the new sun, struck
dumb with fear. When Joseph Smith
fell laughing to his knees before a pillar
of fire, his tongue swelling, his father
descended and spoke in a voice as cold
as the risen Sangamon Creek, saying
go home. Past noon, this basin of dirt
riddled with thick bloodless cracks.
A crop duster buzzes low overhead
to cough its toxic rain like a blessing
toward the dark corduroy of soybeans
to the west. Paint huffers straighten
on knee pads cut from vulcanized tires
and their pink-stained hands slow for
half a beat. Through the propped back
door of the school bus, popular music
washes over them, saying nothing
they haven’t heard somewhere before.
– for Elliot
“The body, monks, is not self…”
– Siddhartha Gautama
Past midnight our firstborn drops
the brittle cluster of oil noodles,
carried home in a violet backpack
from his high school trip to Beijing
with a skewer of fried scorpions
and this Chairman Mao snow globe,
into a saucepan barely wide enough
to hold it. Hot water bites his fingers
and he flinches, swears, and laughs.
The noodles boil, trying to untangle
from within. Years ago, when he
was to us a girl, we watched a robin
pluck dry fronds of pampas grass
from the ditches, shuttle them back
to an elbow under the rain gutter,
and trick each into its place, one
after another, with a reptilian logic
that requires nothing more. Soon
we are awake, on the overnight bus
between a construct and a memory,
holding both in arm’s reach. Soon
the robin, meticulous and gone.
Soon the fabricated snow. Soon
our selves, improbable, this life
and the few things in it the heart
keeps, and winds, and unwinds,
and will not hesitate to wind again.
Born and raised in rural west-central Illinois, Todd Smith studied poetry, music, and math at the University of Virginia, and received his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Yale Review, Crazyhorse, River Styx, Green Mountains Review, Barrow Street, Palette Poetry, Verse Daily, and elsewhere. He received Frontier Poetry’s 2017 Award for New Poets, and was a semi-finalist in the 2018 92Y Discovery Poetry Contest. An actuary by profession, he lives in West Des Moines, Iowa with his partner, poet Heather Derr-Smith; their daughter; and their two sons.
“Strawberry Pickers, Nauvoo” first appeared in Prairie Schooner; “Souvenir” first appeared in Frontier Poetry.