Poetry  October 2007 | issue 382

Time Out

by Mark Smith-Soto

Mark Smith-Soto has been working for more than sixty years to write a perfect poem and doesn’t plan to quit anytime soon. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The gift of death glows through the October afternoon.
Nothing stranded in the seasons belongs to eternity.
But I feel like a god sitting on my back porch.

Only a god would look to the left like this
and understand the redness of maple leaves
and hear the cardinal shiver in the holly

and feel the sun and cold wind sweep
through the porch screens and not care
what time it is, or what time is,

barely remembering when things were different,
the azaleas aflame, the lawn a velvet rug,
the loved woman wandering somewhere in

a poem. And this moment too will end, is ending,
the acorns pattering on the roof are saying so
with the fanfare of their leave-taking,

the gray neighbor dragging her recyclables to the curb
is saying so, even the geese calling over the house
proclaim I am not a god, no, not a god —

but my hearing’s tuned beyond any murmurings,
the afternoon stretches on, golden and heedless,
and death itself is just half-listening.

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