smith: painting of jack smith lumberyard owner (not on a wall) sitting. may 1967

He took some thin savings

And a loan, risking low

Saving a company he thought

He could grow – and, did.

A son of small sin, 

The drinker his father; the loafer his,

Here he did not capitalize but, cheered on by the wind,

And by the Sun, took the chin

Music, the buckle of the belt and

Went at law’s consent.


Woe for a mother

Hardly known, he found

A likely lonely other;

Not first choice of red heat, nor fire of white light –

No: really only another empty vessel. Holding hands, sitting a-mast,

A one to build a life around, and to hers, his.


And he came to charity, cut luxuries

For himself when his workers went without

And – using no belt – taught his sons by example, shame.

He scorned not leftovers, nor the hand-kneaded

Bread; did not envy meat in his brief times of need.

Screeds he abhorred but lectured not against,

They beseeching him to grow his business, now well-known.

He smiled and told the congregants he’d already grown.


His sons missed the drafts,

One too young for Korea the other, too old for Vietnam.

He held his tongue when his wife, herself working,

Said, buy that house on Chautauqua, Fluvanna,

Searching for a starry place to ring with garden’s rest,

And her roses, and a house for her

And his many small things, to await death.


Sipping wine, watching wife prune roses at hill-spire Chautauqua sunset

Sons, industrious, virtuous not perfect; chastised by act,

Wonders Jack, thinking on many-a-known who’d failed or simply died

– Wife smiles, holds up for him a beauty –

Why he was so lucky.



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