Steven Ray Smith

Freedom from want

In this freedom from want
there is not a turkey
and not an apron
bowing before a cocked
father retrieving his prestige,
the carving set.

There is not a grey bun and bobby pins
making way for his magic upon her make-ready.
There are not children
fitful with hunger,
starched like dad,
fitful with convenience
and surveying the laughter while she
remains spackled in gravy.

In this version, she is hungry too.
He is still suited but seated.
She has likewise roasted but there is a humorous
part and all around await her punchline.

Accent Wall

He told me a blue joke
just minutes ago, a risky joke
one only tells to a most trusted
friend. And she gave me half
her chicken-salad wrap, because she knows
I don’t mind her cooties.
My buddy there simply nods
every time he sees me, as if we are thinking the same
thought, as if our accord is that firm.
All ten regard me like that.

Around the table, the ten-seat table
in the corner room, they only know
each other.

And now they are all laughing
at some private understanding.
I try to finish answering a question
one of them asked me in the hall, but
from the table her tickled eyes glance past me,
as if my navy blazer were some vague shadow
against the cadet-blue accent wall,

one of the many dark and uniform partitions
that give our corridor
its semblance of latitude.

STEVEN RAY SMITH’s poetry has appeared in Slice, The Yale Review, Southwest Review, The Kenyon Review, Barrow Street, New Madrid, Tar River Poetry and others. New work is in North Dakota Quarterly, Guesthouse and Chaleur Magazine. His website is He lives in Austin.