Birds on a wire
gather like clouds before a storm,
like thoughts flocked together,
perched before they fly shadow-winged
toward the blazing sun
gilding the rooftops--and the fiddler—
with his burning violin,
sings the songs of stars—
the endless cycle of before
and after love and beauty, constants amidst the fleeting.
And so, we waltz, three-quarters beyond time,
pausing like birds, then soaring high again,
in rhythm, feeling the universe’s beat.
*Inspired by Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire” and “Dance Me to the End of Time.”*
Star-dusted primordial seas birth dinosaurs,
who emerge to fly back toward the light.
From river shore, I watch them
in bobble-winged flight,
twinkling silver above the sapphire waves.
Now, there, in the crisscross currents,
the osprey sights a rainbow beneath the surface.
A dive and splash, his taloned toes grab
who only sees white wings,
the Angel of Death, carrying him home.
There’s a space in the tumble of a wave
just before it hits the sand,
when you can see the fold of time--a fraction of a second
that vanishes with the evanescent sparkle
of spindrift in the air,
a synaptic connection made and gone,
winged on white gull against grey-blue sky.
As a strand of seaweed twines around your ankle,
the moment passes,
and the next --
and you remember him,
and that space between heartbeats,
when you listened, waiting for the next one--
that never came.
Short bio: Merril D. Smith is a historian and poet. She is inspired by nature, particularly her walks along the Delaware River. Her poetry has been published recently in Black Bough Poetry, Anti-Heroin Chic, Nightingale and Sparrow, and Fevers of the Mind.
https://www.merrildsmith.comA Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Merril D. SmithThe Wind Whispers Storms by Merril D. Smith (poetry from her webpage)3 poems from Merril D. Smith in Fevers of the Mind Poetry Press Presents the Poets of 2020
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Merril: I began writing stories when I was a child. I remember giving my dad a handmade book (a school art project) with a story I had written about little creatures called Troubles. After that I did a little bit of very bad writing in high school, and then I started writing non-fiction as an adult, beginning with my doctoral dissertation in American history, which became my first book, Breaking the Bonds. I didn’t really turn to poetry until my children were grown and out of the house. I began a WordPress blog, which gradually became a mostly poetry blog. I think I was seeking a creative outlet without realizing it right away, and then, suddenly, I felt almost overtaken by the poetry muse. https://merrildsmith.wordpress.com/
My parents were both great readers, and our house was always filled with books of all sorts. My family loved books and words. My mom started taking me and my younger sister to the library when we were very young. I think even though it wasn’t a direct poetry influence, this love of words has influenced me throughout my life.
Jane Dougherty’s challenges on her WordPress blog really helped me to begin writing poetry. I particularly loved her Yeats challenges.
Merril: I’m not sure that I have a biggest influence. I think I’m affected and influenced every time I read a poem I like. Recently, I’ve enjoyed the work of US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, and I’ve discovered a lot of wonderful poets through Maria Popova’s Brainpickings site (https://www.brainpickings.org/). But I also love so much of the poetry I read on Twitter on #TopTweetThursday (the initiative of Matthew M C Smith, EIC of Black Bough Poetry), on Fevers of the Mind, and the work of poets I’ve met on WordPress and dVerse. There are so many: Jane Dougherty, Damien Donnelly, Kerfe Roig, Peach Delphine, Rachel Deering, Sarah Connor. . .
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing?
Merril: I was born in Philadelphia, then my family moved to Dallas, then back to the Philadelphia suburbs when I was in 7th grade and my parents divorced. I can’t say I think of Dallas as being an influence, but certainly my childhood and family life during the time I lived there were—and also, my parents had a large wholesale antique business then, and I thought their first antique store was so fascinating, a sort of magical place.
Q4: Have any travels away from home influence your work/describe?
When we lived in Dallas, we often went back to Philadelphia for holidays and vacations, and now I live in southern New Jersey just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. As an adult studying history and walking around the city has been an inspiration, as have the natural world within and around the city. There is a lot of nature in and around Philadelphia—parks, two rivers, woods, streams, and we’re not far from the sea. I traveled as a child with my parents, but I haven’t traveled too much as an adult. Then again, anywhere I do go might be inspiration for a poem—a visit to a museum, a trip to New England, etc.
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Merril: No, I think it happened gradually.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Merril: I love to get lost in good novel. I was giddy going into my local library recently for the first time in over a year. I also enjoy walking, cooking/baking—and now it’s a joy to see family and friends again. Pre-Covid, my husband and I liked to walk around Philadelphia before going to see a movie or play, and then discussing it afterwards over coffee or wine.
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?
Merril: I have a poetry collection coming out, but it’s not official yet.
Q8: What is one of your favorite lines from a poem of yours.
One of my favorite lines from one of my poem’s comes from “Origami Winter,” published in Black Bough Poetry’s Christmas/Winter edition, 2020
“My sister remembers we did origami our memories now unfold these shapes of winters’ past”
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
My grad school professors helped me with some of the mechanics of writing, and I’m also a test writer, which means I’ve learned to choose words carefully. As far as direct poetry help, everyone who has given me feedback has helped me hone my skills, but the creative process is on-going.
Something that I’ve only learned recently is that there’s a creative streak that runs through my ancestry—though I don’t know how far back. I don’t know about poets, but there were artists, musicians, and probably writers. I feel a connection.
We passed the dish of memory, transferring without hand-touching the squirrel-shaped mold– its ceramic a bit care-worn, appearing empty, though we knew it was full of recollections and dreams, tart and sweet, like the cranberry sauce that once filled it, and would do so again. Now these thoughts of past Thanksgivings, filled it, dripping over to fall in tears. It won’t be the same, we say, and do you remember? Her laugh, our laughs together– not together this year
Here and Hereafter
From misted dreams, the clouds blow back black as sky-ships spray incandescent shimmer, and with whispered wonder sing, bring, ring-in the pink-rosed day. This after disaster, hereafter and if– the moon comes blue, and hums a riff for the sad sea, and those you see, in-between drifts of shadow and shine, the haunted souls of those who played with diamond cool, embracing now the darkest deep, finding that water breaks, and aches without why and whenever, with roars, ripples, waves, and swell from here into hereafter,
and if, and if, and if. . .
Shelter for Dreams
Dawn blush brightens the grey, over the rippling river heron poses in sunrise salutation.
In silvered blues, beauty comes through shadows to shimmer,
waves roll out and slide back in, the moon waxes and wanes, and time flows,
through tide pools, reflecting clouds and light, giving shelter to dreams.
Merril D. Smith writes from southern New Jersey. Her poetry and short fiction have been published recently in Black Bough Poetry, Anti-Heroin Chic, Nightingale and Sparrow, Twist in Time, and Wellington Street Review.