R. T. SMITH's books include Trespasser (Louisiana State University Press, 1996) and Messenger (LSU, 2001), which received the Library of Virginia Poetry Book of the Year
Award in 2002.  He has received fellowships from the NEA, the Alabama Arts Council, the
Virginia Commission for the Arts and Arts International.  His work has appeared in Atlantic Monthly, Southern Review, Poetry, Partisan Review, and others.  He currently edits Shenandoah for Washington and Lee University and lives in Rockbridge County, Virginia,
with his wife.

What if the place gave grandmother
the creeps -- everybody walking softly
or perching for hours with nothing
but a book?  I'd hitch rides on tractors

across the thirsty peanut fields
and wander the dusty stacks, study
the tank of luminous fish or nest
by a lamp in my favorite frayed chair.

In the country of peaches and collards,
of farms and sweaty work and church,
it was a refuge from summer.  Ceiling
fans spun, waking the dust.  Volunteers

worked the check-out desk.  If someone
shushed me for chuckling at Crusoe
or Odysseus and his giant, I'd grin
and burrow deeper into the chapter.

I was learning to treasure my paper
cuts and shrug off any adult's stare
as I devoured Gulliver, science, war
maps, a grizzly's life.  Despite the sign

prescribing silence, I was learning
to savor the strange, learning to sing,
to keep still as a sparrow or star,
to flower like a word in the dark.

R. T. Smith


On the old hay road last night the bear
hounds were howling, and now the hunters
careless of drought have somehow set

Hogback Mountain's peak a-smolder,
while a scarlet cardinal passing over
this snowed slope we call home

eases into a windbreak cedar
as if aware a wingtip or even his name
just by brushing the withered tinder

could touch this cold country to flame.

R. T. Smith