Then old tío Enrique, the black sheep, showed
me the place where his mother and father and two
brothers lay niched, stacked in a cement box
not yet half full, still taking all comers. Not me,
he half-whispered, never, and I saw him shiver.
Meticulous cracks climbed the bony block,
though one wasn’t a crack at all but a lizard
so skinny my bad eyes would have missed it
if it hadn’t run like stitches over my wrist.
That corner’s where they put your grandfather,
said Enrique, the brilliant engineer that planned
the Costa Rican roads, pointing at the place
where my hand rested, next to the spot where
very soon they stowed him, like it or not.
Jury Duty Summons
The book dyed red along the edges crinkles
with every page she turns, pauses, glances over
her glasses at the TV provided to amuse us while
we wait, for many are called but few are chosen!
The jittery screen jumps with so many novelties
to want and mourn, she flips and scans another
page as an earnest face explains plastification,
how it will help us preserve things forever,
but her index remains poised on the page until
the pretty talk-show host leans into the camera
and hisses, Does your spouse tell you the truth,
the whole truth and nothing but the truth? How
small the room grows then, how still, as we lay
our books on our laps and push back our glasses.
MARK SMITH-SOTO is Professor of Spanish and editor of International Poetry Review at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He has published three prize-winning chapbooks and two full-length poetry collections to date, Our Lives Are Rivers (University Press of Florida, 2003), and Any Second Now (Main Street Rag Publishing Co., 2006). His poetry, which was recognized with an NEA creative writing fellowship in 2005 and has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize, has appeared in Antioch Review, Kenyon Review, Literary Review, Nimrod, The Sun and many other publications. In 2010, Unicorn Press brought out his work of translation Fever Season, the selected poetry of Costa Rican writer Ana Istarú. His most recent works are Berkeley Prelude: A Lyrical Memoir (Unicorn Press, 2012) and the chapbook Splices, due out next year from Finishing Line Press.