When my grandfather earned enough money
he bought the county dump, and on it
built a century of tokens.

My youth, a child of bottles.
Blue liniment, brown liquor, Dr. Porter’s
Antiseptic Oil, a taxonomy of light

unearthed from his foundation of sand
and filtered through sunbeams, a kaleidoscoped
glimmer as their world began to fade.

In his later years Pop spoke of “haints,”
gray flashes of body forms passing
through the hallway, all shapes and sizes

but ever faceless, and while we knew
that all old men see things in their heads
as through fog from a distant summit

we worried if vapors had risen from the landfill
and triggered visions in a mind made weak
by refuse and time. Although I never saw

them, I knew he spoke truth, for as a child
I had read our future, embossed on a bottle
of rosewater: for bad and tender breasts,
sore eyes, chapped hands, and the cure of new
and old wounds, as if held against the right
amount of brightness we would come

into focus and move, briefly,
between the shadows of living
and the passing of light.


Wally Smith is an ecologist and poet (not necessarily in that order) originally from northern Georgia. His poetry and essays have appeared in numerous publications, most recently terrain.org and Town Creek Poetry. Smith is an assistant professor of biology at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.

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