Janet Smith

When I first thought of my own death,
I had no poems to put it in.
Just me and the bed tucked under
a cold ceiling that pulled away
into black mouths. Years later,
I imagined someone’s hands
on my hips, my breasts. That scared
me in a different way. The ceiling
paused and watched, the bed tensed
under me. I rehearsed the difficult
parts: the placement of arms and legs,
the first kiss. I wasn’t sure how
bodies fit, I only knew they must.

About death I have no clue.
Just the same feeling when I think
of it of being out of breath. The
same drop from the same cliff. A corner
of light pulled back to reveal the
nothingness we’re traveling to. Then
I think of hands on my body. Those
of a man I met in a restaurant or
in a bar, returning me to myself,
over and over again. I become only
flesh–tasted, bitten, halved. The
mind quenched in the lap of the
moment. Let death be like that.


Janet Smith began college at thirty-five after a string of jobs in Yosemite National Park. She graduated with an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Minnesota in 2001.She is a past recipient of a Nevada Arts Board Fellowship in poetry and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Fourth Genre. She is on faculty in the English Department at Lake Tahoe Community College, California. Her poetry has appeared in Rosebud, Margie, Seattle Review, The Cream City Review, Eclipse, Kalliope, and The Mountain Gazette. All of a Sudden Nothing Happened, her first book of poetry, is forthcoming from WordTech Press.

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