22 | Poetry & Art by H. Russell Smith
Listen—there’s been a crash
At the edge of somebody’s ranch
I am injured, hungry, and alone.
Surely you understand my condition
Perhaps felt this way, too—afraid
The bond between us is not strong
You cannot be faulted for turning away.
I mean you no harm
I never have, I never have.
Are we so different that
We cannot begin as friends?
For brief shelter and a few warm scraps
I will answer your curiosity
In plain good faith.
Hide me now, I am in grave danger
The dogs and flashlights are close by
I will not forget this kindness
And tell it among the stars
If I survive, if I survive
Which is unlikely without your aid
My friendship is gratefully yours.
[“The Crash,” originally appeared in Windmills (2019)]
I, as a child, stood out in the back yard
Late, worried Momma
It was the stars’ elusive siren song
A frail youth enveloped in the twinkling,
Like Momma with my sister
I, pregnant with crazy ideas
Spoke of saucers
Unlike the dishes of warm milk
That we never gave the neighborhood cats
These were destined to set down
Just beyond the swing set
Maybe crashing upon the neighbor’s garage
I was certain; the red and green
Flashes in the sky
Did nothing to dissuade me.
Cold winter evenings meant
Hurried school lessons
In favor of listening for sounds in static
Or tuning for ghostly silhouettes
In reliable black and white
On a wire tossed out my bedroom window
Tied to a rusty clothes-line pole
With the years, a young adult
Came to be doubtful
Of celestial pilgrims
Planning any visits to hopeful
Backyard astronomers in Small Town, USA
The Midwest is far too practical–
Stubborn, no less, to tolerate such silliness
Even in its broadest-minded souls
Yet the aging child found solace
In distant radio voices.
I still do–but I’m not telling anyone
The entire story.
It happened on a far-flung farm
Where I never retraced the steps or
Pocketed bits of weather balloons.
Over the shortwaves
Someone else from near the site
Told another what his father once saw
I heard it myself– vacuum tubes never lie!
Honesty is rooted in antiquity.
Many years later to the month,
A journalist confirmed my suspicions
About where the bodies, if any, were taken.
I went back to my yard under the stars
Older, more educated, perhaps
Still refusing to become wiser.
I have no explanation ready
For my pitiful neighbors and
The rubble of their outbuilding
Other than I told you so.
Stearman wheels bend blades of grass
Vegas, Constellations, Orions lumber by.
I once flew Cherokees off toward the stars.
Always crying over Apollo, the forgotten,
I now stand below—wings politely folded,
Transfixed lovingly on winking Luna.
I am the Starman.
My heart explodes over field and road
Circling barns like crows in chase.
I wait to whisk away upon lighted whisper
On a dark night
When time is right by my side.
Underwing, under cloudy cover
I shall take flight to a distant nebula.
Shape fits better than any spacesuit
Spiraling flare, the tiniest of comet tails
Starman destined to rejoin barren, rocky solitude and
Delight in the rings of worlds unknown
Lament ones born of single sun and
One steadfast moon cheering its companion up
By games of hide and seek.
How am I so fortunate
To fade into the great canvas
Not viewable by unaided eye?
To watch over mountain, desert, city
Where other Starpeople in skyscrapers
Soak in incandescent starshine
Scintillating in orchestrated syncopation
A daily multi-unit telegram:
I am okay. Stop. When are you coming home?
Flying Saucer Spins & Other Senryu
Flying saucer spins
Friend, are you coming for me?
I am lonely here
I know what I saw
Fictitious little green men
A government truth
Editor’s Note: This memorable artwork by HRS is classic, good-fun Elvis kitsch. It first appeared in his book, Time Machines, Annoying Minotaurs, and Other Childish Pursuits (2016).