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December 15, 2022 / barton smock

( recent and when

people will say they'll say, but then won't. and I get it. time and finality and a thing done loses its unfinished allure. but I hold the following somewhere handless because it is that close. and I've said things about things and the people behind those things have kept silent. but this below keeps me above at times.

Considering Ghost Arson as a collection, there are obsessions or at least repetitions: owls, milk, ghosts, etc. The pinnacle obsession being god in all forms and personalities (“you picture god as a toddler studying a map” or “the airway of a god with a tail”), the word itself repeated nearly to the point of semantic satiation, a term coined by Leon Jakobovits James, who also suggested that the phenomenon could be employed to ameliorate phobias. Consciously or not, perhaps Smock is attempting to exorcise a theophobia. Conversely, the recurrence could be a mantra reverberating across poems.

– George Salis


some recent:


One hand broken, one hand dead. A ghost using a tooth as a bookmark. A bathtub owned by two dolls. I can’t keep coming back here to get younger. List, poem, paragraph. This whole year, neither bee nor jellyfish. I see my brothers. Rabbit miracles in the long past of god.         


Lightning paints nostalgia on a star. We say field in unison. Then grocery cart. Our fish-bitten father carries his fever into a photograph. We use language as movie extras too alone to be killed. The outhouse burns as a demon. Two sticks to its name.


Pregnancy puts a jump rope on the moon. You hold your baby over a dog until you don’t fall asleep. Paw five only works in the snow. 


We are home when they turn off the water. Son slides a sock puppet down a naked window. Each of us becomes a sound afraid of a different footstep. The window falls asleep. The dying forget how to stare.


My son doesn’t hear god but does a wall eating behind a wall. Book spines. Legless birds. We keep our guesses close to the stomach. A scarecrow turns to salt. Time exits pain to kill a fish.


Her poems about swimming are all in the same book. You look too long at the photo of a hand. The food is hot and it hurts to be naked. 

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