Steven Ray Smith


Undiscovered green ferns beside green

mosses beside fallen trees and towering trees

with hosanna branches high up toward the blue,


except there is one old oak at the boundary with a rusted strand

of barbed wire eight inches into its heartwood, at least 50 years

ingrown, such that removal requires cutting down the whole trunk.


It is an eyesore in this primordial shelter, though

the squirrels that climb the deep bark furrows

to their drey high in its crown deftly sidestep


the lockjaw spurs without pause.

Neither do their pups asleep in the dense canopy 

second-guess that their nest is anything but the safest on earth.


Maybe the twanging fragment skewering its knot itches

the sapwood when the wind blows. Or maybe the cicatrix

is a handsome trophy of a lone sapling that thwarted the box-in


of the wildwoods, acorns still lying on the ground,

originality that required no improvement.  The fragment twangs on.

What was a fence has blown to oxy-dust.



Steven’s poetry has appeared in Slice, The Yale Review, Southwest Review, The Kenyon Review, New Madrid, Tar River Poetry, Flapperhouse and others. New work is forthcoming in Barrow Street, North Dakota Quarterly and Guesthouse. A complete list of publications is at He lives in Austin, Texas.

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