Stubborn Leaves

On the stairs up the deck,
Or walking through piles of curling leaves
Still waiting for spunky Japanese red maple compadres
To drop and join them in flat bouquets

The racket above is like an old school, non-green,
New York City traffic jam where cabbies blast
exhausted horns and Yiddish-bang their steering wheels—not too hard—
not to get anywhere, just on a Racing Form stage for their passengers’ tips

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Norton’s Big Check

This story poem about a working class hero’s lost weekend, which First originally published in 2012, is a favorite of Mark Dudzic and it brings home class struggles that inform Dudzic’s analysis of Trumpism. (See Mr. D.’s post below.) Like Dudzic, Smucker is alive to the difference between the collective idea that still shapes aspects of working class culture and the ethos of “The Golden Boy on the Way Up.”

Smucker finds lyricism in lives at risk of being trumped now, if only in the society of spectacle. Whenever this editor re-reads “Norton’s Big Check,” I’m reminded of Hemingway’s memorable mockery of proletarian lit in the bar scene late in To Have and Have Not. But “Norton’s Big Check” is no joke. Though it’s not solemn. It even has something like a happy ending. While Smucker isn’t beamish, that finish is a sign he believes in more than Hem’s nada.  B.D.

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Estrellita’s Last Quartet

Carmelita (AKA Natalie) Suzanne Estrellita died last Friday.  She was 60 years old.

The transgender rhymer  was a world-class wit who realized, per Oscar Wilde, “those who see any difference between soul and body have neither.” Like Wilde, Estrellita got off some of her best shots in conversation, but many of them made it into lyrics she published in “First of the Month/Year”:  “anguish as a second language”…”loss is more”…”Am are I?”…”knee-jerk heart”…”jerk de soleil”….”you don’t know me from ishmael/I don’t know you from dick…”

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Two for Phil (“Sometimes, We Tremble”)

Roxane Beth Johnson’s first book of poetry, Jubilee, won the Philip Levine Award for Poetry and was published by Anhinga Press. In awarding the prize, Levine commented: “These luminous poems depict a world I never knew—or knew as a child and since forgot—and they do so with the authority of a totally mature voice. The artistry that unifies this collection is so perfect it is almost invisible. Altogether an amazing debut.”

Here’s a poem from Jubilee:

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Assimilation

People who speak Spanish all have outside jobs, my daughter announces
as the Mow ‘n Blow crew descend from a truck to ravish our lawn. I read her a book about dark children dancing, playing drums with wrinkled elders, eating fried plantains. Bored, she grabs Dr. Seuss.
I’m not Latin Mommy.
I’m light pink like you.

If your family would call
, I tell my husband or if you made rice and beans.
Maybe if we got somebody white to cut the grass.

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