Workdays you tiptoed the high wire
and steep cliff ledge, wearing blue twill
and a bright orange vest,
each crosswalk a sea, a compass, a cargo of children.
Still, Earth passed you by
with time pieces you strapped
to each wrist for trips to Texas and California,
circling city blocks and returning home.

“Something has fallen out of my head,”
you said, just weeks before
Katrina made bones of the city
and broke the hand of Jesus.
When Rita came exhaling,
I begged you to leave,
but you stayed—half-beast, half-child,
living in no-man’s-land,
You resisted my tearing down
the great wall you built of ants,
souring pots and junk mail.
One morning I pulled a drawer
and found your pistol, old vials of blue pills
and years of unspent cash.


Stars drown
in the black drone of waves.
You cross
in cold light.
You lie down
with newborn fields
and scented voices,
a titter and a word
short of laughter.
Hands lock in a mudra.
We feed you.

Old vessel, sweet daemon,
do we cage you crib-like
to protect you from yourself?
Or is it the delicate crystal within
we fear?

Published in A Mandala of Hands (Aldrich Press / Kelsay Books, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by John Warner Smith. Used with the permission of the author.