Posts by J.L. Smith

I am a writer/political scientist based in Eagle River, Alaska. I hold a BA degree in English/Creative Writing and a MA in International Relations. Best of both worlds, I write everything from naturalistic poetry to Russia and the former Soviet Republics. Recent publications: Academic Nonfiction: The Syrian Dilemma: Moscow's Motives in the Syrian Uprising (2013). ISBN: 9781304283931 Creative Nonfiction: "The Important Things" - Alaska Women Speak - Winter 2015 issue Fiction: How to Eat a Bagel - 50-word Stories - Sept 15, 2015 The Devil and the White Room - Down in the Dirt - July/August 2016 Poetry: "Sara" - Grassroots - Fall 1999 "Femininity" - Cirque - Summer 2015 "Sitting in the Bathroom" - Yellow Chair Review - July 2015 "A Happy Poem" - Eunoia Review - August 2015 "Willow Rebuilds" "Spectators" "Fire Angels" - Alaska Women Speak- Fall 2015 "Dark Clouds Descend Low" - Three Line Poetry - Issue 33 - Sept 2015 "Da!" - Peeking Cat Poetry - 8th issue - Oct 2015 "Three times my baby's stroller passes by" - Eunoia Review - Oct 2015 "Babushka's Samovar", "If I May Speak", and "High Tea and Fancy Things" - Alaska Women Speak - Winter 2015 Issue "Joanna's Child" - Cirque - Winter Solstice issue 2015. "Away with the Bitterness!" - Peeking Cat Poetry - 9th Issue - Dec 2015 "Away with the Bitterness!" - Alaska Shorts (49 Writers blog) - December 22, 2015 "The Reflex", "The Drop Off", and "Crossed Eyes" - Eskimo Pie - Feb 2016 "The Fragments You Carry", "The Fireweed Dies", and "Crabapples" - 13 Chairs - Spring 2016

Poem to be Published in Leaves of Ink: What Can’t Be Saved

I am pleased to announce that Leaves of Ink has accepted my poem “What Can’t Be Saved” for its July 6th publication. Will post a link when available! Look for it!

Advertisements

Poem to be Published in Eunoia Review

I am pleased to announce that the Eunoia Review has accepted my poem “Doll” for publication in late May. Will post when it is available!

Poetry Post-A-Thon: All Things Mundane

This one was published in Alaska Women Speak.

All Things Mundane

 

Years ago, my right eye lost sight

of the spring leaves. The ones I passed by daily,

unimpressed by their freshness, their greenness,

their joyful triumph over the barren winter,

as I carried my backpack in hand and

my university degree in sight.

 

Though, as spring turned to summer,

the eye clouded and blinded, and the

eye chart on my bare knees

was gray like water

in a used watercolor cup,

and my canvas was as blank as could be.

 

Uveitis, a strange word, never really explained

the summer’s lost colors

and the air conditioned exile

of photophobia

and sunglasses worn inside.

Nor could it prepare me for the steroids,

the pills,

and that last shot,

directly into my blue iris,

that brought back more than my vision.

 

As the fall leaves’ edges no longer blurred and

smudged like an eraser correcting a mistake,

but cut sharp around their respective

burnt orange and yellow perimeters,

the terminating season gave me their colors

and my vision a refined sharpness,

a rebirth of something that was once taken away:

a gift of all things mundane,

never to be taken for granted again.

 

Poetry Post-A-Thon: The Diagnosis

This one was published in Alaska Women Speak.

The Diagnosis

In my cave,

in the emergency room,

the doctor left the room dark,

with just a crack of light,

that bled in from the hall outside.

 

In just eight hours, my right eye had gone

from noticing the blurred hands

of the clock on the wall,

hands that smeared like ink on wet paper,

to the hot lightning bolt

of photophobia, pain that had me

holding my head in the dark,

and praying for no light.

 

For an hour, my fiancé and I

were left alone in the cave,

to watch shadows move underneath

the closed door frame,

as the eye specialist saw

a man who lost control of a chain saw

and injured his eye.

 

You’re lucky. He can see you too,

 

the doctor said,

as I imagined a slipped hand,

fragments of wood splintered in an iris,

a severed optic nerve,

and the blood that brought him to the hospital.

 

Later, the specialist caressed my hands,

as he scooped them away from my right eye.

I smelled the Dial soap

and wanted to believe him:

I understand this hurts.

I’m fairly sure of what you have,

but I have to be sure.

 

Then, like a piercing light saber,

the scope swept across my eye.

Before the pain could cut

through my brain, he stopped

and pronounced:

iritis, at a minimum.

 

The specialist dimmed the lights

and my right eye went closed again.

My left eye, the one that could still see,

saw the first doctor

who shadowed the specialist.

I knew it! His fist balled

in triumphant victory,

of a correct diagnosis,

of what I had lost.

Poetry Post-A-Thon: Someone May Have Said

This one was published in Alaska Women Speak.

Someone May Have Said

Someone may have said:

you need to have been lost once

to know when you have been found.

When you have lost bits and pieces

of yourself along life’s way.

When you are able to mourn what you have missed,

have experienced enough to realize its importance,

and have wished time could undo all your regrets.

 

Someone may have said:

you need to have been lost once

to know that you have been found.

That life is only lived through things lost,

a journey spent seeking things to gain,

when all that matters are the things you lost,

that were priceless and not for sale:

the things that made life worth living

Poetry Post-A-Thon: Urban Snack

This one was also published in the Yellow Chair Review

Urban Snack

The two ravens are dancing on the green plastic trash can

again. Maybe the same partners as last week, but who knows

they all look alike, with their jet black heads and plump chests

that puff out like chickens as they jump up and down, a rhythm,

a Morse code, maybe an ode to Poe, like toddlers anticipating

snack time and a handful of cookies. Today it is not the recycling day,

so they pull pizza shards out of the thin slit that gapes open,

because you were too cheap to upgrade to the next level, and

too lazy to put out that one last bag before the pick-up

last week, so the cavity rests overfilled. They caw at you

to remind you of this as they tap, tap, tap on the can and

chew crust like its a new type of earthworm

of the crunchier kind. Strips of hardened dough and flashes

of dried tomato sauce they rip until they find that last full

slice of garden vegetable you were too proud to eat,

that was two days old and flexible like rubber,

cheese topping like wax. They shred it with delight and fury

until you shut the living room curtains tight,

shutting out the brief daylight, as you pray in haste

for that humming truck in the distance to appear and

the garbage man to announce closing time, evicting the dancers

until next week.

Poetry Post-A-Thon: Purple Lullaby

This one was published in the now defunct Yellow Chair Review in an issue dedicated to Prince.

Purple Lullaby

It was by chance that I met Prince

when my life was constantly

walking in from the out door.

Being 10, ugly with acne, and

having a single mom in a nuclear

family town was brutal some days.

I counted heads each day at noon,

of the 4th and 5th graders in the

the long line that snaked out the hall

for lunch room seats, to see

where my bullies would be sitting,

and if I could eat in peace that day.

My cousin Jenny would invite me into her room

when I visited her, the sacred room,

behind the door that was always closed,

that opened to the Madonna, Springsteen

and Prince posters. A cheerleader

with ripped bleached jeans and crimped

blonde hair, Jenny and I never

talked about bullies, but Prince,

as we listened to When Doves Cry,

Let’s Go Crazy, and my favorite, Purple Rain.

 

At Christmas, she gave me my own Purple Rain LP.

Now, you can listen to it as much as you like,

she said. Not just when you are with me.

 

And, listen I did,

behind my closed bedroom door.

The record turned around and around on the turntable,

a hypnotic motion that guided me

to the comfort of the purple rain.

 

Later, after my regular babysitter

was fired for hitting me,

I stayed with my great aunt who liked

Garfield, bodice ripper romances, and the Rat Pack,

and hated how modern music just repeated

the same lines over and over,

like Purple Rain does.

 

She couldn’t possibly understand how Prince

sang to me a lullaby,

allowing me to sleep at night.