Michael Simms – Zed

Simms LE P&W May 2023

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing May 2023

Zed, poems by Michael Simms


Somehow I always believed if we live
faultless lives, kind and generous,
if we sit at the bedside of those who have
no one else, if we bend to rub the ears
of the dog hungry for small attentions,
rock the baby in our arms
so mom can sleep in the next room,
hours sliding by like gentle ghosts,
if we sit down with the small boy
and carve the alphabet to zed,
if we ask the name of the doll, held
so sweetly in the little girl’s arms,
if we kindly lie, praising the bland dish
served with love as we visit the home
of an old friend, sit on the patio,
watch monarchs land on milkweed
halfway to the place ancient memory
calls home because we have no other life
than this one, if we remember the far boat
of long ago where a boy and an old man
cast their lines into the still water
of evening, if we are kind to ourselves
we can be kind to others, and then
we’ll be protected. Our children will be safe.
We can leave this earth in peace.
Oh, my dear friend, I remember how you held
your baby in your arms as we sat in the grass
on a summer day, and we never imagined
we’d outlive our children

for N.S.

The Artist’s Garden at Giverny

In my own small garden
magenta isn’t a color
but a time of day

just before evening
when irises dab the air
bees gather

on the Russian sage
and the dark fruit
of the elderberry

fulfill their promise
at last / Years ago
I folded compost

into the soil
building an opulent layer
over the dark

clay of the mountain
terracing the earth
with stone

as I did in my father’s garden
decades ago / Now
at the end of what I thought

I knew
white tail graze the roses
Josie barks furiously at the window

and I rush into the garden
to chase deer away
like an old scarecrow

Monet painted the iris bed
only once
while devoting 30 paintings

to haystacks
250 to waterlilies
which his gardener cleaned

every morning
and 18 to the Japanese bridge
over the pond

stationing easels around the shore
working multiple

to catch the light
at different times of day

in his last years
as his vision failed
he was learning from theory

practice and memory
to see as I am learning
to see

magenta isn’t a color
but a compromise
the eye makes between

red and green
so irises are almost pink
almost blue

and dappled light
green leaves red

while the artist’s
can be glimpsed

through the trees
like a distant

Second to Last Testament

Since I never cared about anything
but love and beauty,
you can do whatever you want

with this brittle husk when I’m done with it.
Let the body find its own bright scattering.
Toss my ashes into the wind

for all I care, let them drift
into the Mon Valley
to mix with the unpretentious love

of the parishioners
at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church
straight down the mountain from us

where old women stuff pierogies
to repair the golden onion on the roof
and raise money for the orphanage

in their hometown of Vorzel outside Kiev
bombed last month. Every Wednesday
they fill over three thousand pierogies,

bag them by the dozen, grab their mops and pails
and scrub the granite floor beside the sacristy
until the priest is walking on light

© Michael Simms

Michael Simms is a poet and novelist who lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (USA). His recent poetry collections are American Ash and Nightjar, and his recent novels are Bicycles of the Gods and The Green Mage. He is the founding editor of Vox Populi, a daily gazette of poetry, politics and nature.

7 Replies to “Michael Simms – Zed”

  1. Or as Willie suggests, “roll me up and smoke me when I die”. Or maybe John Prine’s suggestion in “Please don’t bury me”.

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