PRESIDENT IN MY HEART
by Mark Smith-Soto
—”Just wait, I’ll show you,” he cried, and struck out at them unmercifully. When he stopped and counted, no less than seven flies lay dead with their legs in the air. He couldn’t help admiring his bravery. “What a man I am,” he cried.
“The Brave Litle Taylor” from Grimms’ Fairy Tales
I have a president in my heart
who killed seven with a single blow!
In my heart (what else to call it?)
I have a president who killed all seven.
One was a boy doing something funny,
peeing against a wall, painting
mountains on it. The others were
bigger, they did not show their breasts
or purposes, one was tired with hating me,
one was holding a melon in her hands,
others were laughing or constipated or
late. I have a president in my heart
who made a bomb for all of these,
a very smart bomb with seven heads
which found their tiny windows and went in,
found even tinier mouths and noses
and ear holes and flew right in
and blew out the mess of their eyes.
I saw it on TV, I know it is true,
and the pride I felt still beats in my throat:
seven, all seven, with a single blow!
And someone told me yesterday
something I was amazed to hear,
that it was not seven after all, no,
that it was one hundred and fifty thousand,
one hundred and fifty thousand,
the number fell like confetti
on the streets and in the park.
So that is why tonight, now
that the moon has turned its face away,
I am writing this poem to put into words
what I am beginning to understand,
that I have a president in my heart,
and that he is the darkest joy of my life.
Mark Smith-Soto is professor of Romance Languages and Director of the Center for Creative Writing in the Arts at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he edits International Poetry Review. Winner of a 2005 National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in creative writing, he’s had poetry in Antioch Review, Callaloo, Chattahoochee Review, Kenyon Review, Literary Review, Nimrod, Poetry East, Quarterly West, The Sun and many other literary magazines. Fever Season, his translation of the selected poems of Costa Rican poet/playwright Ana Istarú, in bilingual format, is forthcoming this January from Unicorn Press. Author of three prize-winning chapbooks, his first full-length book of poetry, Our Lives Are Rivers [University Press of Florida, 2003], was runner-up for the N.C. Poetry Council’s Best Poetry Book of the Year award. The poem here reprinted by his permission is from his 2006 collection, Any Second Now [Main Street Rag Publishing Company].