A Parallel Uni-Verse
cynical believer provisional skeptic Doubting
Thomas Thomas the Believer I heard
bells maybe an electronic carillon looped
for an hour was it broken? drove some silent
Quakers crazy or were there change ringers
pulling Steadman or Bristol for God and
the banishment of evil for the glory of the
Church of the parish church and of the
bell maker inscribed on each bell? I found
myself lifted up asking if anyone knew
what church it was where the bells rang and
was hushed back into a sacred silence by
others who did not feel the figures of sound
as I sat between the stools of two musics


James Smethurst is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine and now teaches at the University of Massachusetts.
Change Ringing
By James Smethurst
There is the famous fear of and fascination with the
lip of death, the imp of the perverse, living on,
no leaning over the edge, from which all people
eventually fall, even those who never look, never
leap. Maybe that’s the fascination, thrill of time lapse
stupidity, of live fast, die young, and leave a cautionary,
but beautiful memory instead of the inevitable slide
that prudence, good diet might hold off for a minute.
Anyway, I get that, maybe because it’s in poems,
songs, and even the Book of Revelation, the lukewarm
church spewed in the vision of John of Patmos. What
I’m unsure about is why I find the little rabbit cute before
it wriggles through a hole in the chicken wire and eats my
lettuce or how entertaining the groundhog, kale terrorist,
who also bites off the tops of my beans. Like Thoreau
I’m more enraged at the woodchuck than I ever cared
about cut worms, betrayed—who likes a cut worm, anyway?
Maybe the answer is anxiety about whether we are stewards,
keepers, or brothers and sisters who believe that we are
in charge, put in charge, by nature or God, but suspect we’re
not, making many violent, and me fix the chicken wire.


James Smethurst is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine and now teaches at the University of Massachusetts.
Death and Fascination
By James Smethurst
Farmers now hay early, chop up baby
bobolinks, the birds in the tall grass
with the yellow berets, white on wings,
black belly and face. It's hard to blame
farmers trying to get in another hay
crop before the bobolinks are finished
nesting. Farming here is hard, period, and
I would miss the farmers just as I miss the
black, yellow, white hover above the grass,
the double-time bebop rush of bobolink song.


James Smethurst is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine and now teaches at the University of Massachusetts.
Bobolinks
By James Smethurst
War in Watertown 2013
By James Smethurst
When I lived in Watertown war seemed always
with us in every grocery, falafel shop, and pizzeria.
“Support The Artsakh Freedom Fighters” “Macedonia
Is Greek” “Peace In Palestine” “Do you think
he is really dead this time?” the owner of Arax
Market, an Armenian from Beirut, asked me as
we watched an Al-Jazeera report of the zillionth
rumor of Saddam’s passing on the store tv. I didn’t
know. “Maybe,” I answered. “Even if he is dead, he
will come back. He Is the Devil,” said the Armenian.
I thought of war, the Armenian, and the Devil let loose
as I watched a video of body armor, assault weapons,
pressure cookers, a boat, terrified faces peering out
of windows, sheltering in place, a “hail of bullets,”
a plague set by some hand somewhere I used to live.


James Smethurst is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine and now teaches at the University of Massachusetts.
11:32 p.m. Reporting person at the police station reports she believes she “had died and has become a clone.” The female appears to have some mental health issue; she said she is going to Baystate Franklin Medical Center to have her brain checked and make sure it is all still there; she stated she doesn’t feel like hurting herself or anyone else. Services rendered. Greenfield Recorder Police Log, May 2, 2014

As the saying goes, we are all stars of our own
movie. The problem is that we do not get to
script the film. There is the pain of recognition,
that we have seen this kind of movie before, that
the many fascinating layers do not give us any
more control, only complications. Complain to
the director and you get marked down as a troublemaker,
a difficult personality who will not be a star forever.


James Smethurst is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine and now teaches at the University of Massachusetts.
Greenfield May 1
By James Smethurst
I have mixed feelings about a string of propane cars
creeping along the tracks behind my house. I love the
rumble, the whistle, but don’t want the tanks to blow
up. The song, the warning call at the crossing on
my street with no lights or bell as the trains crawl
north on a line will change with the rerouting of
the Vermonter here next year, so soon we will get
lights, bells, and gates as trains pass by at seventy
miles per hour, but maybe without the warning
whistle, now too inconvenient, just annoying poetry.


James Smethurst is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine and now teaches at the University of Massachusetts.
Train Whistle
By James Smethurst
I love reading the Sunday papers on a wet New Jersey
morning visiting family. In a story in the
Star-Ledger,
a serpent, alleged green anaconda, was spotted
in Lake Hopatcong, dove, according to the press,
through the legs of a herpetologist troubleshooter,
Jersey crocodile hunter hustler, the snake a ghost,
maybe, of the Bertrand’s Island Amusement Park,
now coiled in the bowels of the luxury townhouses
covering where the Illions Monarch II Supreme carousel
once spun. But the spirit of Sussex and Morris counties
showed through in the crisis, “Reported Anaconda
Sighting in Lake Hopatcong Leaves Locals Defiant
in Face of Roving Reptile,” cried the headline in the
Sussex Herald, lacking a bit in concision, perhaps,
and leaving actual expression unsaid, to be filled
in: “Fuck you!” “No, fuck you and your snake, too!”

Back home in the Connecticut River Valley, the corn
cut down to a dirty yellow stubble, I walk on the bottom
of Lake Hitchcock, the water, glacial melt, gone, present
sight and memory glowing with headlines, filled with
the bright colors of the comics,
Prince Valiant, which
looks great while nothing is resolved; a coyote kit as real
as memory rushes the milkweed, then stops at the highway
just in time; the wooden roller coaster of Bertrand’s Island
hurtles, too; and a flying snake swims through waves of air.


James Smethurst is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine and now teaches at the University of Massachusetts.
Walking on Lake Hitchcock
By James Smethurst