Sunday, May 22, 2011

there is but one fence

Abraham Smith spits up rural life in beautiful fragmented songs in his debut collection, Whim Man Mammon. Exactly where it comes from, I can’t say. I know it reminds me of my Grandpa Gobble and his porch, that old shack at the end of the dirt road in North Carolina. And his whiskey in the fridge and the stories of my Dad’s youth.

Wherever he comes from and whatever he’s been through, Abraham Smith has shaken it loose and tossed it on the page. He speaks and it’s the trembling sound of the self, of throwback, of removed in America. Smith hopes, “may we live live live/forever far from walmart, among/the husk and husky peas and husky voiced singers/who ring among rusts and thrive on good boot gals.” He is not speaking from beside me in Central Indiana but broadcasting in his loud spoken word. A removed throwback self. These poems strike the sense that beg COME OUT AND PLAY. The best kinds of poems pull me out of my apartment, off my couch, away from the computer; Smith’s poems taunt and punch me out of my comfort hole. You want experience? Take this:

in work jeans

patched four ways with pants
I ripped the ass on

kneeling to my first
still warm deer

my knife just so
my hand slid in

and all the plates
began a claim

on hopeful

vultures and crows

to fall to steaming

Abraham Smith is not shouting the gospel of a distant way of life. He’s breaking open the bottle to prove there’s whiskey inside. In these moments, Abraham Smith knows the knife is more than a knife and the blood more than blood and those pants and their patches remind him (and us) that those bits live on. And he can pull close to himself, to others, to us remembering a grandpa:

it goes without saying
my grandpa’s head is one helluva circus
never was religious man
people say he walked with deer
tickled their chins
flipped kernels of field corn
off his thumb
in and down their dog nun hatches
alzhimer’s now sad because
never would have wished to live this far from deer
happy when he doesn’t pine
happy when is bed is
cut from skin of moon
how much you need?

This collection isn’t easy to talk about because this isn’t a man sitting down to write the next great American poem, this is the man cutting his poems from the mud and muck of the American rural. Though some of the poems blew themselves into too small of bits or rattled too far, Abraham Smith’s first collection is one to be reckoned with, the work of a man possessed by the where as much as the what.

It's always better to hear Smith read his poems.
It's always best to see Smith read his poems.


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