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Category archive for: Heather Derr-Smith

Catherine’s Furnace

There were diamonds in the ground beneath us

formed out of the volcanic rock, hidden in the smelting mines.

We could feel them, pulsing, pinging like radar into our prayers.

Ours was a family of seekers, pick ax and lust, searching

for a substitution, some bread and wine for what was lost.

My mother’s Jesus and Reagan, my stepfather’s beer and secretaries,

their joint quest of catharsis in lusts and fistfights, headbutt and pulled hair,

the sawdust trail of the tent revival.

I know one thing.

I was worth beating down, a pulp. Someone wanted me so damn bad,

like a desire that was desperate, hogtied.

Didn’t it feel like some kind of love, baby girl, rabbit-punched?

I found out years later, my real father hunted butterflies,

like Nabokov, the blue ones, all over North America,

aerial net in his delicate hands,

cabinets of fastened apex, thorax pinched between thumb and forefinger,

scent of napthalene.

He would spend days lost in the Paris Museum, drawers sliding open and


rustle of pearl-bordered forewings and blue crenuled hind wings,

tiny scales on his fingers and palms in lustrous dust.

I imagined them coming in waves to the New World.

I didn’t know who my father was; he’d just gone one day

when I was very young, a throbbing in my neck, cervical vertebra burst.

Under the seraph’s beat, a deflagration of the self, burning away to suck it all in,

something never there from the beginning, irretrievable

as the dead, lingering, the way the dead do in resistance,

like the ticks we burned with a match. Or the startle

of recognition when the mockingbird sings and flies away

and then you grow weary with the song and come to know

it was just an imitation of some other beast.

What you thought was there, substantial,

was just the wind’s thickly veined limbs in the false indigo.

Nabokov said nature was a form of magic, like art.

The grub-bored holes in the moth’s wings, imitating a leaf,

   enchantment and deception, he said.

My home was No Man’s Land, perfume of magnolias in the dusk.

The prophet said, Put hot coals on your head.

Make love out of the kick and the punch.

Make beauty out of cunt, a glowing ember.

from ThrustFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2017
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Hide Out

Briefest reflection

two children’s faces in the spring,

a brother and a sister with filament hair, and beyond their heads,

a house on the hill, all of it battlefield. These two go at it

every day, shoveling the red dirt out and roofing it with plywood,

resourceful, army canteens and hatchets hooked to their belts, nails between

their teeth. Oh, how he protected her,

how he stood against their father when he freighted down the long hall,

oh how he bent his head like a shield while she cowered.

Now in the pit they’ve tunneled, in the house they’ve rooted out,

he digs his fingers in her. He’s strong,

made for coming like a second coming. She’s

made for taking it, taking all of the earth into her body.

In a year, her brother runs away across the country

   back to Texas, no more war.

Back at the house, the walls ache. The doors of the rooms barred shut.

Their father’s footsteps rattle the threshold, shotguns

leaning against the bedframe, loaded and cocked.

She still snuck into the woods at night after her brother had gone

to the covering their own hands built,

where they once leaned against each other in the dark, the whippoorwill’s


balled and trilling in the fists of their hearts.

from ThrustFind Heather Derr-Smith’s work in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2016
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.