August 1999

Jordan Smith

Jordan Smith   This marks an author's first appearance in an online magazineJordan Smith is the author of An Apology for Loving the Old Hymns (Princeton University Press, 1982), Lucky Seven (Wesleyan University Press, 1988), The Household of Continuance (Copper Beech Press, 1992), and For Appearances, which has been accepted for The James Dickey Contemporary Poetry Series. He has received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the NEA. He teaches at Union College in Schenectady NY.

Money Musk    Click to hear in real audio

Listen, you upstate hillsides (nothing
Like the herb-strewn fields of Provence)
Which I have loved
So loyally, your wood lots
And trailers and old farmhouses,
Your satellite dishes—

Haven't I driven
Past the strip malls and country airports,
The National Guard armories and even
That abandoned missile depot
Clutched in the lake's fingers
Past the tattered billboards.
The barns spray-painted with praise,

Past the farm tools, fiddles,
And fishing lures, the sprung bellows
Of accordions on the tables of flea markets,
Just to catch a glimpse of you as you once were,
Like the brass showing, raw and dull,
Where the silver plate has worn off
The frame around this mirror, and the silver
Gone too, the only reflection as faint

As light on dusty glass,
And beyond it, tarnished, dim, the rafters
And beams of the attic where I climbed
To take out my grandmother's mandolin
And play on the three or four unbroken strings
With a penny for a pick.
Wasn't that offering enough, a life

Of playing half-badly on an antique instrument,
Trying to catch a tune you'd long ago
Forgotten even the name of, Money Musk
Or Petronella. Wasn't it enough
To take my vows of poverty of spirit
Before the plain geometry of a 19th-century
Farmhouse, and praise no other goods

Than this rectitude, this stillness,
This clarity you have spurned now, oh
Landscape I have sung
Despite my voice, despite the stubborn
Silence behind your tawdry, best intentions.



Jordan Smith: Poetry
Copyright 1999 The Cortland Review Issue EightThe Cortland Review