Tag Archives: Michael G. Smith

When Meaning Is Missing

by Michael G. Smith

after Ansel Adams’ 1943 photograph
Pool in Pleasure Garden,
Manzanar War Relocation Authority Center

in a garden
void of children
built for orphan
children if parents
are simple ash
when is it mean
to be forgotten
acts more than
their thoughts
names less
than the question
marks left behind
play’s absence
water mirrors
only movement
passing clouds
footbridge arc
blue? blue? blue?
even turtle rock
can’t be soothed
nosing up
to daylight moon.


The Wardens of the Camps

by Michael G. Smith

Ansel Adams’ 1943 photograph Pool in Pleasure Garden,
Manzanar War Relocation Authority Center

We see in lines, curves,
contrast. Mind fills in the rest.
Blooming garden, wooden

footbridge, trees bending
with spring wind. Reflected
in the rock-walled pool

built for the interred
orphans, some half Japanese,
high, white clouds drift by.

I Give My Daruma Two Goals

by Michael G. Smith

Shigeo Naito
Poston War Relocation Center, Arizona

Wandering the desert
within the barbwire fence
I find fine pieces of ironwood.
Untrained in carving, I whittle
anyway. Whittle and practice.
Identity needs a carved
daruma for the luck
Bodhidharma brings the carver.
But I must leave this one brown;
red pigment for Dharma’s robes
is not to be found in camp.
And I will leave his wide eyes
unpainted, for I have two goals:
to see my family through this war
camp, and to buy another farm
for the one taken in the Central
Valley. Then after we are released

Blue Lines, Blue Sky

by Michael G. Smith

It was the fall of 1915 that I decided not to use
any color until I couldn’t get along without it
and I believe it was June before I needed blue.

                                                                                                                   – Georgia O’Keefe

I know grey and coal,
and the dark steely art
of those years, and think
new frontiers of light
and color wanted to open
where flowers and mountains
could rise and meet vast skies,
where fearless streams ran
cool and clean.

And one settled territory
had opened, and with a voice
heard beyond its borders.
I know how such places
weave their magic into us
who are looking,
and perhaps Georgia, too,
quietly dreamed
her Taos and Abiquiu years,
the blues and corals,
the shades of brown
she would compose
not because a land
demanded them, but because
she needed them.

And what is expression
besides blooming jimson weed
or a worn rainbowed mesa
standing before us
and us seeing it?

Author’s note – this poem was inspired by O’Keefe’s blue ink
calligraphy Blue Lines drawn in 1916 and shown in O’Keefe’s
book Some Memories of Drawings (University of New Mexico
Press, 1988).