Issue > Poetry
Austin Smith

Austin Smith

Austin Smith was born on a dairy farm in northwestern Illinois. He has lived in numerous places since, including Hyderabad, India, Zuccotti Park, New York City and a tent in northern Alaska. He has published three chapbooks of poetry: In the Silence of the Migrated Birds (Parallel Press), Instructions for How to Put an Old Horse Down (Longhouse Press), and Wheat and Distance (Longhouse Press). He recently won the Henfield Prize for fiction.

Memoir Of My Imaginary Sister

Growing up in a world of males,
she was tougher than all us men combined.
She never combed her hair, but evenings
our mother would come downstairs
with her brass-backed brush, begging
to brush it for her, for her
hair was beautiful, long and golden.
Our father called her Rapunzel,
a nickname she hated. Older,
she let our mother brush her hair
less and less, and once I remember
she said flatly, "No." Watching
our mother climb the stairs
with that brush—her mother's
and her mother's mother's—was
the saddest thing. My sister
loved horses more than people,
spoke of Montana as if it were
a place where, when you died,
you became a horse and everyone
just smiled, like when a boy
says he wants to be an astronaut.

Night Falling On Two Lovers And A Knife

It falls like attic dust on the inverse
vase of their non-faces and on
the long thin face of the knife.
It has something to teach them
all by falling, and what it has
to teach, once known, will be
known forever. The knife is plunged
in the night's spleen, but the night
does not cry out or writhe
as the lovers do. It is silent
as the animals in the dusky barn,
the horses asleep standing up
on the gibbous moons of their hooves,
the cows lying down, their bodies
aerial photographs of Minnesota,
of white woods and dark water.
That there is another whom
the night does not fall upon
but falls into does not matter
to us, nor does it matter to us
that he is holding the knife.
The night falls into him
like snow falling into fire, and
as it does it becomes something
else: not rain, and not light.
It becomes something dark,
vague and pure. His hands
in her hair.


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