Henry Smith


We miss the best of existence
in these un-classical times;
how hard to imagine the feeling
of turning into a poplar tree
without real life experience.

Are tears and ichor turned first,
ambering while legs stitch together,
the heart chambering with rings,
or is it an outside-in sort of thing?
Bark-fleshed the arms darken,
spread, and blur like a dackle,
the leaves from extremities,
the buds from pursed lips.

We shouldn’t have to manage our own
changing. Let gods be gods. Man
be man. This century, asking for more
than an Ovid stan is able to give.
Whatever happened to a nice oracle,
a night building altars to the fates?
Could someone just turn me into a spider
for my vanity, a mourning stone
for my pride, send me on my way?

I often think (when ducking
self-transformation) of haunted Phaethon
watching the rooted roof in Hades
where the Heliades made it through:
an elegy of sky. Did he know
how profoundly his sisters saddened,
how even in the moments
they first turned into trees,
they stayed, weeping, on the shore?

My siblings make up parts of me
I sing every minute, and
other parts, undiscovered.
If I lose either of them,
the way of the tree is the only one.
Sturdily undeciding.
Gift of table and shade.
I’m saying this is all hard enough
with them, senseless without.

I’m saying I want to spend
long enough in grief’s hangover
the gods grant me a canopy.
Grant me my copse, the long winters
apart from nightmare actualization,
idiot hope, or spending the afterlife Lethe-side
arguing with Icarus over
the greater heliocentric tragedy:
turning your hometown into ashes
or overdoing it on your first day of escape.

Henry Smith makes poems in Oregon. His work has appeared in Jabberwock Review, River River, Gravitas, DMQ Review, Peach Velvet Mag, Ode to the City, and others. He is a co-founder of The Calamity, a former resident at Chicago Art Department, and an MFA Poetry student at Oregon State University. @chenrysmith