Poem April 2023
Ice Cream Parlor
The woman has a gold stud through her tongue,
her companion a snarling tiger tattooed on his neck.
They hover over cups of Crazy Vanilla and Chunky
Chocolate as she describes the final scene from an old
Tom Hanks movie in which a single white feather is
lifted on a breeze to float gently through the universe.
“It’s symbolic of death and rebirth,” she says,
and claims the movie’s protagonist is dying
as he sits on a bench pondering his young son’s
passage into tomorrow. The woman with the studded
tongue says the feather’s random motion is evocative
of fate and free will and that we are all reborn
with our final breath, our souls gently ascending.
The man with the tiger tattoo sees it differently:
“Sometimes,” he says, “you’re just full of it.”
And there, in the sumptuous clamor of the ice
cream parlor, you become aware of a cold certainty
that has nothing to do with feathers or movies
or tattoos or tasty confections or the clear blue sky
or the universe about which the stud-tongued woman
is so emphatic on this spring morning when you
are again reminded that for every bright romantic
notion there’s a spiteful truth that will crush it.
— Stephen Smith
Stephen Smith’s Beguiled by the Frailties of Those Who Precede Us will be published this spring by Kelsay Books.