In the Silence of the Migrated Birds

Austin Smith

Austin Smith was born in 1982 and grew up on a family dairy farm north of Freeport, Illinois. He still considers the Midwest his home, despite travels and sojourns in Japan, Arizona, India, Nepal, Alaska, and, most recently, California. His chapbook of haiku was published by Longhouse Press of Vermont; he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize; and he was awarded a $7,000 Artist’s Fellowship Award from the Illinois Arts Council.

He prays for a life spent growing vegetables and poems in an un-glaciated hollow in the Driftless Region of southwestern Wisconsin.

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Sleeping in My Boyhood Bedroom Again

I wake to the songs of mourning doves,
having returned from far-off places
to sleep beneath the scaffolding of old dreams.

I know this room the way
a river knows its bed:
every crack of plaster
through three skins of paint,
every fissure veining the ceiling
where the old house has buckled
bearing the weight of five lives of sleep.

On the doorframe of the closet
our father measured our growth,
penciling a line above our heads,
recording the year and the weather
as if recording water levels.

I am the furthest flood
of the river of my life,
the high-water mark.

I stand in that closet again
and feel infinite children
nested within me.

I have gone miles
and miles.
Now, when I wake, I must lie still
to allow the light to recognize
this shape I have taken.