Feature > Poetry
Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently Life on Mars (Graywolf Press 2011). She is the recipient of a Whiting Award, a Rona Jaffe Award, the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, and the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, among other distinctions. Since 2005, she has taught in the Creative Writing Program at Princeton University.

The Mowers

If they were each to stop
        at the whim, say, of a greedy thought,
    and then the one off to the left

were to let his arm float up, stirring
        the air with that wide, slow, underwater
    gesture meaning Hello! and You there!

aimed at the one more than a mile away
        to the right. And if he in his work were to pause,
    catching that call by sheer wish, and send

back his own slow one-armed dance,
        meaning Yes! and Here! as if threaded
    to a single long nerve, before remembering

his tool and shearing another message
        into the earth, letting who can say how long
    graze past until another thought, or just the need to know

might make him stop and look up again at the other,
        raising his arm as if to say something like Still?
    and Oh! and then to catch the flicker of a smile

creep up along those other legs and flare
        into another bright Yes! that sways a moment
    in the darkening air, their work would carry them

into the better part of evening, each mowing
         ahead and doubling back, then looking up to catch
    sight of his echo, sought and held

in that instant of common understanding,
        the God and Speed of it coming out only after
    both have turned back to face to the sea of Yet

and Slow. If they could, and if what glimmered
        like a fish were to dart back and forth across
    that wide wordless distance, the day, though gone,

would never know the ache of being done.
         If they thought to, or would, or even half-wanted,
    their work—the humming human engines

pushed across the grass, and the grass, blade
        after blade, assenting—would take forever.
    But I love how long it would last.


Ellen Hinsey
Notes On The Progress Of History


Poets in Person:
C.K. Williams


Robert Bly
Climbing into Bed