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Poem March 2023

Ice Cream Parlor

The woman has a gold stud through her tongue,

her companion a snarling tiger tattooed on his neck.

They hover over cups of Crazy Vanilla and Chunky

Chocolate as she describes the final scene from an old

Tom Hanks movie in which a single white feather is

lifted on a breeze to float gently through the universe.

“It’s symbolic of death and rebirth,” she says,

and claims the movie’s protagonist is dying

as he sits on a bench pondering his young son’s

passage into tomorrow. The woman with the studded

tongue says the feather’s random motion is evocative

of fate and free will and that we are all reborn

with our final breath, our souls gently ascending.

The man with the tiger tattoo sees it differently:

“Sometimes,” he says, “you’re just full of it.”

And there, in the sumptuous clamor of the ice

cream parlor, you become aware of a cold certainty

that has nothing to do with feathers or movies

or tattoos or tasty confections or the clear blue sky

or the universe about which the stud-tongued woman

is so emphatic on this spring morning when you

are again reminded that for every bright romantic

notion there’s a spiteful truth that will crush it.

  Stephen Smith

Stephen Smith’s Beguiled by the Frailties of Those Who Precede Us will be published this spring by Kelsay Books.