Two Poems from “The Thing That Gathers” by Lucas Smiraldo

Johnny Damon

Johnny Damon was dead.
Nine times,
nine games
his hair was
his feet were
but everyone in
would whisper,
Dead man swinging
and they knew
only his hair refused to give up
only his Indian-like locks
would not make
the final concession
kept swinging
like fists
and we grieved
for Johnny Damon

but couldn’t take our
his hair.

Johnny Damon
is probably not
an Aztec
but somewhere
in his indigenous soul
he knew
his people
invented zero
that Base 10
was his birthright
in Game 10
Johnny Damon
flew –
his hair talked
to his hands
his hands spoke
to his back
his back
to his
he stepped
into the path
of his hair
and there is
Johnny Damon
grand slamming
the right field nation
resurrecting Boston
hair flailing
Johnny Damon
dead man running
rounding third–
you can die
nine lives of
but number ten
will rise
like a bird.


For People Who Have Considered Suicide
When Resurrection is Enough

This is for all of the lonely people
who have considered suicide
when resurrection
is enough

which includes
just about all of us. All of us.
All of us
have considered suicide,
plunged into the
night time of our soul
at 3 a.m. when no one is up
and we know,
just know that
glides into the contours
of the bedspread,
that morning won’t
be any better
because dying
is a casual art,
rising is a mystery
and breakfast
is not always
the first meal of hope.

They don’t tell you
when you’re born
how desperate
things might get,
how quietly
the intruder will arrive,
how the losses
will pile up,
how our first,
and third loves
will not be our soul mates at all.

They just say—
go to work and pay your rent.

And we are
way too casual
about resurrection.
We talk about it
like a slogan
or brand.

They don’t tell us
that we
to rise
as badly as the sun,
that it’s deep
within us,
that it’s instinct,
that Christ
was not the first and last
to rise—
he was just a really big headline
we could remember.

The truth is,
human beings keep rising—
because that’s
what we do.
We are a lot better
at it
than the experts think.
We are a lot better at rising than dying

but if you think
about the story—
the dying always
comes first.

I know
you’re out there.

I know what
you’re hiding.

I know what
you’re holding.

I know what an
oversized car payment
can do to a
human soul.
I know the spouse,
who thinks your value rises
and falls
with the size
of your paycheck.
I know you
are trying to save someone
in your life,
that it’s not working
and part of you
is dying right along
with them.
I know how hard
you want to lose your weight
because the words ‘risk factor’
are actually another way of saying:
“keep this up and
you will eventually take
yourself out.”

I know about the drinking,
the affairs,
the gambling,
the purging,
the constant television,
the father you can’t forgive,
or the mother who was jealous
of your life
because she refused to live her own.

I know about 3 a.m.
and the shadows on the bedspread
falling over
folding paths
that lead to nowhere.

I know
what is at the end of
that shadow.
I know
that it is death.

And Christ.

And the secret
no one seems
to be telling you
is that
you are Christ.
You are Christ.
And don’t you know,
Christ had to die
before he could
live again.

What kind of story
would it have been
if Christ had lived
and lived
and lived
and had a good time
and lived
and never done
the dying part.
We are Christ
and we all
have to do the
dying part.

We die
because we
lose something
we truly cherish.
We die
when promises
aren’t kept,
when really good scripts
are thrown
into the road
and run over
before we get to them.

We die so
we might live again.
We have to die.
We have to fail and
realize what we were looking for
was not nearly as beautiful
as the we
we are about to become—
the you,
you are about to become
is so beautiful

and unfortunately,
we always have to die first
to become it.

We die, that we might live again.

We die. We died. We live. We lived.
Remember. Amen.

*Lucas Smiraldo is a Pacific Northwest writer, performing poet and twelve-time produced playwright with a 17 track CD (Voice of the Americas) a published book (The Thing That Gathers) and a three episode web series (Slam Town) to his credit.

In April 2013 Smiraldo was named the fifth poet laureate for the city of Tacoma. He marked his Laureate term by producing Tacoma’s first ever “Laureate Listening” Anthology. Smiraldo recorded over 50 grassroots voices all acknowledging the “spirit of place” through recorded poetry that represented neighborhoods and landmarks throughout the city. In 2014 Smiraldo was chosen as the Artist in Residence for the third National Race and Pedagogy Conference and convened a team of poets to act as “creative journalists” to capture the conversations and themes of the conference and present them as original poetic works.

During his two years as laureate Smiraldo presented and organized over 100 events, and his listening project became the focus of an NPR feature on KUOW.