Jordan Smith – Answer Song

Smith LE P&W March 2023

Download PDF Here 
Live Encounters Poetry & Writing March 2023

Answer Song, poems by Jordan Smith.

Answer Song

When I heard you sing,
I knew you expected nothing from me,
Since a song is nothing
But the dead air on the AM radio
Between ads for the speedway, STP, and Valvoline.

Since a song is nothing,
I knew you expected an answer song,

I rolled the window down, and stuck one arm out,
Sunburned to the shoulder.
An unlit cigarette in my mouth, I waved
To a girl walking along the fairground fence
In the rearview mirror.

And I punched one button after another on the radio.
In those days, between towns and in the long valleys,
All you could pull in was static,
Or maybe the country station from Canandaigua.

Then I heard a few bars of steel guitar
From a jukebox through a propped-open diner door
At a four-way stop,

A song that had nothing to do with you,

Which was the song I wanted,
Since a song is nothing,
Even an answer song,
In the dead air on the radio,
And nobody listening at all.

Craft Essay Disguised as an
Undistinguished Film Noir

If any of this was the mystery you once thought it was,
You’d turn what was left of your attention

Unwilling protagonist of an undistinguished film noir,
Devotee of ellipses, of lines half-remembered,
Broken arpeggios,
One word standing between you and another.

The stubbed-out cigarette, the parcel wrapped in old newspaper
Unopened on an end table,
You have forgotten them, and the name you used

Was never more than a slick of oil after the rain in the parking lot,
Iridescent, inscrutable.
If any of this was a solution, you would already know.

Two Stills

for David St. John

Even as it began, the dream was all denouement,
That sort of memory, that sort of absence.
Stills from the films online the day after the screening.

Two women, each on a window’s far side,
Each with a palm pressed to the glass,
As if toward and to ward
Were a single word,

A longing that was almost aversion, almost self-regard.

The moiré when one screen is placed over another.
The window screen, the screen you are watching.
The fierce distortion you might recognize,

If it weren’t your own,

If you were lucky enough to recognize it at all.

© Jordan Smith

Jordan Smith is the author of eight full-length books of poems, most recently Little Black Train, winner of the Three Mile Harbor Press Prize, Clare’s Empire, a fantasia on the life and work of John Clare from The Hydroelectric Press, and The Light in the Film from the University of Tampa Press. He has also worked on several collaborations with artist, Walter Hatke, including What Came Home and Hat & Key. The recipient of grants from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Ingram Merrill Foundation, he lives with his wife, Malie, in upstate New York, where he plays fiddle and is the Edward Everett Hale Jr., Professor of English at Union College.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.