Noel Smith


On the way to the tide pools
Annie and I stopped near where the sea
crashes into the caverns.
Before us was a rock
with a gaping hole
like a womb to be filled.
Annie pitched white pebbles
into it to see which would
miss, bounce, or be washed out
by a chance wave. 
And which would stay.
Each pebble was a baby
she had never had.
Annie began placing
bleached stones in all the rock
sockets she could reach
until the entire cliff was one
face with many white eyes
like a site of an ancient ritual
of filling where once there was nothing.          


St. Juste, the sorcerer with little baby teeth
who lives in Port au Prince
between All Souls' Cemetery and the sewer
is putting together a bottle.
In it are the shavings
of two skulls
perfumed oils, earth, seeds,
rum and leaves.
This is a paste of dead and alive.
Baby teeth baby teeth
Around the outside of the bottle
he wraps cloth the color of blood
and sets out cradling it under his shirt.
Two skulls two skulls, 
And past the tin hovels, dusty alley
lined by peering eyes, as
along he limps through the runoff's stench
and around the corner
oils, earth, seeds, rum, leaves,
paste of dead and alive 
to stop at the green door. 
He holds the bottle up to the east
for a very long time,
and knocks where the child
has been born.

I say, that web is a mess you know, little fuzz
hung between nothing but my hat and the back of the chair.
No class.  Where are the fine spun wheels of silver
which your yankee kin spin? No grandeur.
      Why grandeur? This is an easy land.
      We string out in the eaves soft in the breeze
      and we know what is what, we wait, and soon
      along will come what we need.
You don't mind being strung up all day
in that frowsy web, waiting for what happens by?
     Somebody happen by, I eat them.
Think of the young women on this island, bright webs
strung in their breast, waiting for what happens by.
     Nothing but trouble happen by them.
Nothing but trouble happened by me, either. I came out
the other side of that, now it is good be at peace. I don't even
have to wait anymore for what happens by.
     You an old woman talking to spiders.


Antigua, West Indies

we are suspended in a rose light
of dawn lovely enough to tide us over.
The sun has not quite cleared the point.
The goats wake in the bushes,
crying for their kin
then cascade off the mountain
to the beckoning grasses.
Quirky lizards spurt along
twigs.  Birds like tiny wind-ups
rustle the leaves, and out to sea,
frigates scavenge the open water.         
It is all a matter of light.
We see only surfaces.
Soon the sun will flare out
its stark clarifications of cars
rusting in the thorn trees, shattered glass,
dismembered dolls, slack-jawed refrigerators,
corroded generators. 
the concrete mixers will growl and snarl
up the mountain, cement block trucks,
backhoes, frontloaders, pickups packed
with laborers, their dark heads
wrapped in bright cloth and the air
will turn to fumes.

Noel Smith's first collection of poems, titled Drifting for a While Toward Cash and Dreams, will be published by MotesBooks early in 2008.  An earlier manuscript, Twisting Sourwood, was a finalist for the Tupelo Press First Book Award. Her poems have appeared in many journals including Yankee Magazine, where she received first prize in 1996, West Branch, New Letters, and Shenandoah. She won honorable mention in the Denny C. Plattner prize from Appalachian Heritage in 2001 and the Henry V. Larom Prize from SUNY Rockland in 2002.  She has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize and lives in Pomona, New York. 



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