wednesday wisdom: “contraband” by bruce smith

April is National Poetry Month. We’ve been celebrating with a poem every Wednesday.

"owl" by picasso.

Contraband

That thing you sent didn’t open,

didn’t change my life as it should, didn’t complicate,

or play, although it made a hate

crime, a love note—both of those—a stolen

thing from the Congo passed through France

then shown to Picasso by Matisse at Stein’s apartment

a carving, a mask, a dance—a misrepresented

soul that became the thing—a trance

we lived in while we built the Great Wall,

The Chrysler Building, the Erie Canal—servants

to the civilization, dowsing, digging,

never stopping to drink.  God strangled

the details as we smuggled the cargoes

of our gifted lives, our lies, our singing.

Bruce Smith, published Aug. 6, 2008 on Slate

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