PoetryIssue 04 | April 2009

Three poems by Heather Derr-Smith


I stand with my daughter at Lake Avernus,
An old entrance to Hell near Naples.
I want her to see it.

When she was seven,
She complained about food and I showed her
A photograph of a famine victim in Sudan, crawling.
It was a bad thing to do.
But I remember she wanted to look.
The sun is hot and makes us sweat. She smells
Like an adult, the effect of puberty.
The dust agitates our toes;
we’ve both hated dust on our feet since childhood, hers and mine.

She’s hesitant to talk about it,
Keeps all her language tidy in her mouth, unspoken,
Afraid of those childish trips, misunderstandings,

If I could look into a prospective glass
Would I be able
To ward off all the accidents, immunize her,
I wonder,
Tie a knot as protection in her hair.
Here it comes, on the horizon, every afternoon:
The uproar of a storm with its gems of after-light.

We don’t believe in Hell, she learned long ago.
But we do know so much about curse and rebirthing:
The wheel spinning in her opening womb.

 <  1 2 3

About the author

A visiting writer at Iowa State University, Heather Derr-Smith has published two books of poetry, Each End of the World (Main Street Rag Press, 2005) and The Bride Minaret (University of Akron Press, 2008). Derr-Smith has volunteered in a refugee camp in Gasinci, Croatia and has traveled to Damascus, Syria to interview Iraqi and Palestinian refugees. Her poems are influenced by multiple experiences and locations around the globe.

Read our current issue:


Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

Travel notes

Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok