top of page

Breath & Shadow

Winter 2015 - Vol. 12, Issue 1

"Absurdity for Drum and Glockenspiel" and "Reliquary"

written by

Robert L. Smith

"Absurdity for Drum and Glockenspiel"


While I've never actually seen

the offending instrument,

I've heard it often enough:

the high, metallic stammer

of the glockenspiel, like the oddly

disturbing song of some solitary child, wafting out of the JROTC room,

accompanied by a single faltering drum, as I leave campus by a basement

door at the end of the school day.


This afternoon's no different,

save for the fact that something

vaguely familiar about this mutilated music makes me pause a moment on

the threshold, searching my memory.


All at once I have it:

here is the transcendence

of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring--

more suited to fluted columns and stained glass-- reduced, in youthful

hands, to the merely mundane, the melody earnestly stumbling toward a

Heaven that, at the moment, seems more remote than ever.




    i.m.: VictorLeonard Buxbaum, 1961-2013


Somehow I know, even as it's happening, that this is a dream. Beyond

its borders, in the waking world, you are still dead:

five months now. In the convoluted logic of the dreamscape, I am

living again downtown in the apartment on Sutter, somewhere I

shouldn't reasonably be.

Although you were Jewish by birth,

Buddhist by inclination, you seem to

have attracted a sort of cult following, old men in black, gaunt as

priests, who come knocking on my door, their thin beards soft as spun

sugar in the hallway light. They want to offer me a reliquary

where in repose twisted metal fragments of the car that ran you down,

the shredded steel still jeweled with your blood; they proffer for

my perusal icons in which your face with its dark eyes and

aquiline features is the stylized visage of the Orthodox Christ, like a

specimen preserved in amber: calm, conveying neither accusation

nor forgiveness, expressionless beneath a shroud of silence.

Raised in New Jersey, Robert Lavett Smith has lived since 1987 in San Francisco, where for the past fifteen years he has worked as a Special Education Paraprofessional. He has studied with Charles Simic and Galway Kinnell. He is the author of several chapbooks and two full-length poetry collections, the most recent of which is Smoke In Cold Weather: A Gathering of Sonnets (Full Court Press, 2013).

bottom of page