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1 poem
by
August Smith

August Smith is an artist in Austin, TX. He got his MFA from UMass Boston and has published 9 chapbooks

Visitors from the Red Star

Georgia, 1982

look: there is a bright light by the reservoir in the trees

casting shadows. it glows brilliantly pink in the blue harvest

of the night. and there is a man who’s a biologist,

meaning he studies life. and there is a dinner party

he is avoiding, meaning he’s not unlike you and me.

I tell you this to build trust with you, using details.

to make more composite the bleary image you see.

and I reveal this to mime a kind of openness to you,

simulating something like credibility, heightening the stakes.

while I am doing this, the biologist is in his garden.

his mind is quiet there. he avoids the dinner party

because he feels uncomfortable around other people,

like you and me. he likes the forms of life so far from us

as to be alien. he studies small creatures’ eye structures

and people don’t like talking about organelles at parties

and he isn’t interested in other people’s work as well.

in the garden he pulls root vegetables and enjoys

the muffled, low snap of their buried tendrils. it reminds him

of fiber optic nerves, piling beets like a dozen pulled eyes,

sugary blood staining his fingertips lit by the white moon.

behind him the party is percussive and warmly bright.

in the blue distance by the reservoir in the trees he looks

and sees the brilliant pink light. he believes his eyes.

which is not a phrase people say, I could believe my eyes,

but he studies life and he’s curious about the pink light

and so he walks the short quiet distance to the reservoir.

I relate this slowly to emulate his movement across Tbilisi

so even without knowledge of 1980s Georgia you can feel

a blue evening and a short walk and a bright pink light

like a misfired flare in the distance as though you are the biologist,

or following from behind, in third-person, like a floating eye.

you can inadvertently picture it happening in your own town

or the suburb you visited one time with your ex-lover

where you also went on a short walk to a reservoir in the night

as her father cooked ribs and you avoided a family party.

the biologist is walking there and the pink light is glowing

and pulsing in a curious manner and he thinks of his pupils

tightening and loosening by infinitesimal amounts to let in

slightly different amounts of light, like the chamber

of a revolver expanding or contracting with the temperature,

his body expending tiny energies from licking the beet blood

off his fingertips moments before. at the party someone

asks where the biologist is and the biologist’s wife simply

waves away the question like exhaust while her eyes roll up

and flutter towards her forehead, indicating please don’t ask.

the biologist arrives at the reservoir outside the town of Tbilisi

in 1982 and now he cannot believe his eyes. he sees

with them        by way             of the light       particles

             reflections       and waves           entering his mind

parsed             by contrast      and neurons        he knows.

two headless figures—like some medieval joke, not the kind

told at a party—two headless metal robots with one eye

in their chests and lights in their stomachs beam back at him.

the credibility I’ve mined between us now evaporates into the night.

it disturbs the birds in the trees unbothered by the pink light.

they breathe in the dust of the details of the garden and the party

and fly with it embedded in their lungs until their bodies burst.

I want it to be the other way around. the details supporting

the vision of the robots. but you cannot believe your mind’s eye,

cannot snap the tendril embedded in what you’ve seen.

the glowing pink light glances off the shoulders of the robots

who are holding white tubes and gesturing to the biologist.

from the pink light emerge two tall beings with one eye

in the center of their foreheads. nothing the biologist knows

can slide this encounter to the realm of his comfort.

the beings tell him they are from the Red Star, which bleeds

its nebulous red cloud into the twisting well of space

beyond the places we’ve thought to map. like a red eye

tailed by a nerve, swirling into a void of blue dirt. above us,

the birds from the trees are bursting to illusory shreds

from some powerful, unseen narrative ripping its way

through the now-ink black of the night. their feathers drift

into the reservoir, dampen softly, twirl to dust on its surface,

like abandoned theses unyoked from the warm bodies

holding them to the real. the biologist saw all this

with his meaty, bloodshot eyes. afterwards,

he returns to his garden to quiet his mind.