Jordan Smith – Dante’s Greyhound

Sample LE P&W July 2023

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing July 2023

Dante’s Greyhound, poems by Jordan Smith.

Dante’s Greyhound

In her dream, she has the predator’s single-mindedness.
She is my shadow and the trees’ shadows and the trees.

Dante says a greyhound will save us, yet he turns aside,
Dawdling with the old poets in their grove,
Whose suffering is a longing for a certainty they could never have known.

Her elegance is a by-blow, her gentleness a matter of discretion,
Fragile and watchful.

To think to enter her spirit is to commit an error of spirit.

No wonder they talk about craft and reputation, as if these mattered.
No wonder their relief when, after all the anxious nausea of the crossing,
The sarcastic doggerel of the ferry man,
Minos, like a good maître d’, honors their reservations.

No wonder that poor exile thought had found someplace like home,

As he might have wished it to be, consolatory, congratulatory, ignoring for a moment only,
At the margins of the trees, salvation’s
Muse, a streak of moonlight on the dark fur of the hare.


for Diane Mehta

Somehow, I keep never getting through the Iliad.
It’s all too familiar,
The impeccable arrogance, the scavenger’s eye for an unequal contest.

You might say, sure, everybody knows the story, what matters
Is the day you pick it up, the lines
You open to, the synch
As the oak’s shadow forks and forks and the bird’s shadow
Traces those elaborating consequences,

As if any moment might have been different, might still be different,

Achilles’ pique, the beak-like spear, the slant eyewitness of the ships,
The spite in the heavens’
Repetitive collateral misjudgements.

A black and white woodpecker,
Singular, his crest red, his beak a spear
Circles the tree, grasping for purchase, implacable.

I’ve left the book face-down on the table on the deck.
I’ve marked the place of my defeat.

Everyone forgets how it ends, you might say,
Each time, caught in the tangle of narrative,

Familiar and endless.

© 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.

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