Sunday Poetry Series Presents: Mark Smith-Soto


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].

About Okla Elliott

I am currently an assistant professor at Misericordia University in northeast Pennsylvania. I hold a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Illinois, an MFA in creative writing from Ohio State University, and a legal studies certificate from Purdue University. My work has appeared in Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, The Hill, Huffington Post, Indiana Review, The Literary Review, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, A Public Space, and Subtropics, as well as being listed as a "notable essay" in Best American Essays 2015. My books include From the Crooked Timber (short fiction), The Cartographer’s Ink (poetry), The Doors You Mark Are Your Own (a coauthored novel), Blackbirds in September: Selected Shorter Poems of Jürgen Becker (translation), and Bernie Sanders: The Essential Guide (nonfiction).
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