by Mary R. Smith


The Chobe River boatman
takes my hand, steadies me
settling onto the bleached seat.
He navigates the murky waters.

The motor begins to strain
slaps the flat bottomed wooden
boat upriver. I have my
eye out for birds in hiding.

A sweep of dry mud appears
along the river; propeller unwinds
white caps scuttle, we scrape
and drift along the edges.

The bank is scored with holes
at orderly intervals. We wait
in a humid hush. Then ancient
murmurs rustle those vacancies.

Bee-eaters burst from their shadowy
burrows, a frenzy of carmine.
Curved beaks,whorls of wings
tessellate the clouds; tiny feet
alight, resilient on papyrus arcs.


“Learning to write poems is a journey – both a struggle and a delight.”


by Mary R. Smith

“Thus the name, in its very obscurity is the constellation of truth.”
from “Constellations” by Alexander Garcia Duttmann

If the constellations,
set with stars
are shapes imagined
and named
by Greeks or Arabs
in myths and stories
of archers and twins,
scorpions and goats;
if a discontinuity of stars
perceived in patterns
changes with the vantage point,
unfolds without idea,
waits for an apparition
astray in a stream of stars
separated by light years,
are not as close together
as they seem, illusion thrives.

If astrologers can predict
a life journey with star shapes,
insubstantial reality,
then linguists and philosophers
using the same trope can name
what they can’t name. So.


“Learning to write poems is a journey – both a struggle and a delight.”


by Mary R. Smith

I found a scruffy beach
on New York Harbor,
driftwood, zinnias,
a sunflower in sand.

Family huddled
on bleached logs,
took silk bags of ashes,
undid them in the surf,
waters quieted,
particles vanished.

Seals have returned
to this harbor
after a century,
sidestroke near pilings,
heads slick as paint,
our gazes.
Tunneling away,
gliding in currents,
they sweep
irretrievable traces.


“Learning to write poems is a journey – both a struggle and a delight.”