Distant Early Warning

by Rad Smith

$16.95

“Like musicians, poets are best known to the general population through single poems in anthologies, so one, two, maybe three meditations of a defining nature is all we expect from a good, purchasable collection. Still, occasionally — perhaps, rarely — there is a poet who raises the bar; a poet who has less of the “Thriller” or filler and more of the phantastic; a poet who manages to place a collection full of great poems. Such is the case with Rad Smith.”
–Jason Rotstein

Format: paperback

ISBN: 978-1-932195-29-3 Categories: , Tag:

Intimate moments saved and savored abound in these affecting, observant poems by the late Rad Smith. It is not his untimely death, however, that brings this volume to light, but his undeniable talent. An inquisitive soul with an engaging mind, his poems persuade us to pay more attention every day, and reap the rewards.

“When I first read the poems of Rad Smith, I wrote his widow: ‘As you might imagine, I have seen many manuscripts by people whom I have not known, and over the last fifty years I have read thousands and thousands of poems in manuscript. There is only one other occasion when I read a collection with so much enthusiasm.’ We have lost a precious maker, losing Rad Smith.” —Donald Hall 

THE WHOLE HOUSE

The storm pulls nail after nail
shrieking out of the timbers
until soon the whole house is shaking
and the roof shudders like horses.
Now the shingles are ripped up
and flung flapping into the sea,
the tie beams drawn like long bows,
the windows sucked inward
on a street named after a tree,
in a town named for a lieutenant,
in a country named after the wrong explorer.

OLD LOVERS

Best never to revisit them unless
years afterward, you’re still tormented,
or it’s late, and you are willing to say yes

if one asks you to unzip her dress
in the dimly lighted room you’ve rented.
Best never to revisit them unless

galloping stallions don’t distress
you, or you’ve forgotten how she once said,
I’m late. And you are willing to say yes

to an invitation with no return address
on purple stationery hotly scented.
Best never to revisit them unless

you can bear the heartlessness:
ravaging hands, teeth, a scorched bed.
It’s late. Are you willing to say yes

yes, yes to a devouring caress
despite the wreckage last time you consented?
Best never to revist them unless
it’s late, and you are willing to say yes.

REQUIEM SHARK
—for Rena

This morning I gulp five gleaming white
capsules of shark cartilage
to make me strong again, I want
another look at the terrible
eye with it nictitating membrane,
those extravagant fins,
the ampullae of Lorenzini freckling its snout,
all of that huge body on the rippled sand
in turtle grass
with an entourage of neon-blue barjacks,
and a remora wriggling in
and out of its gill-slits.
I even want to touch it again,
and this time not just with my fingertips,
but my palm, loveline and lifeline,
my wrist, the underside of my forearm.
I want to press my cheek against its chaste
astonishing skin smooth as a headstone,
want the touch that feels like a blow,
the summoning touch, the touch
of reckoning, the consummating touch, as well as
the stinging sand blown touch of regret,
the stranger’s touch on the train,
the reproachful touch,
even the last touch of a human
who has lain down the a shark,
the touch I have spent my life so ignorant of,
your touch as you unbutton my shirt,
the searing, unbearable touch.

Additional information

Weight .4 lbs
Dimensions 6 × .5 × 9 in

Rad SmithRad Smith, born in 1947, grew up in Minnesota, and attended Harvard, where he studied with Elizabeth Bishop. He worked in high-tech for 15 years, then abandoned that to become a stay-at-home dad and write poetry. In 1998, he learned he was in the final stages of lung cancer, although he never smoked. Working feverishly, he finished this manuscript before he died in December of that year.

Bookslut has handed Distant, Early Warning a long, thoughful and truly extraordinary review. In the opening paragraph, Jason Rotstein writes:

Like musicians, poets are best known to the general population through single poems in anthologies, so one, two, maybe three meditations of a defining nature is all we expect from a good, purchasable collection. Still, occasionally — perhaps, rarely — there is a poet who raises the bar; a poet who has less of the “Thriller” or filler and more of the phantastic; a poet who manages to place a collection full of great poems. Such is the case with Rad Smith.