Charlie Smith
Unattainable Goodness

What is it I belong to and find like crushed mint on my shoes, 

the stepped rocks presented like a change of heart


that speaks to me as if we are of the same brotherhood,
the casual insignificance of a bird passing over this field, the way the painter,


with a flick of the brush, made me stop to think first of my father, 

then of dying, and how then I was a small boy again,


afraid to make a mistake and alert all the time like the French in Indochina 

—what is it I belong to like a residual effect, a remark


dropped handily into the conversation to prove love still exists,

the way—as we went on—the congressman couldn’t come up


with an example (that satisfied us) of the soul on lend-lease,
or, in the high valley, how we liked to stay up late, reading the old books


Mother used to keep in the kitchen, until finally Father would come out, 

a look in his eyes of a wintering sadness, and tell us to go to bed.

Found In Volume 43, No. 04
Read Issue
  • charlie smith
Charlie Smith
About the Author

Charlie Smith’s most recent book is Jump Soul: New and Selected Poems (W.W. Norton & Co., 2014). His new novel, Ginny Gall, is forthcoming in 2015.