Beautiful Throat

Beheadings, slaughter of the innocents, suffering
and sorrow say all the stabbed, ecstatic art
of the museums and more of the same
says the news, the glowing, after glowing now
what, but also in the crowded galleries babies held
by mothers looking at babies being artfully held
in the celestial rain, the fat buttery ones, part putto,
part lard who appear ready to slip from mother’s arms
out of the frame into smoke and storm, the non-art part
of the world, that disobedient, expensive part
like a furious sea you paid to cross in an inflatable
plastic raft, a child’s toy in a bath it looks like
from America where we have no fate
we can’t make. Fate is guns and money
swamping the stars. Fate is the bewitched mixture
of fuel with sea water that incinerates the self.
Fate is the decree of childhood evaporating into
unauthorized space where the I/you is so much
questioning and answering non-art. In art
I see the gold leaf, the gashes, the beautiful throats
and hear the trauma arias of martyrdom
that are the same in non-art deserts and cities.
There are two schools: one that sings
the sheen and hues, the necessary pigments
and frankincense while the world dries
and the other voice like water that seeks
to saturate, erode, and boil. It can’t be handled.
It can’t be marble. It wants to pool and rise
and rain and soak the root systems. It ruins
everything you have ever saved.

Copyright © 2017 Bruce Smith. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017