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Book Excerpts

Jared Smith evokes sunrise across America in the title piece of his poetry collection

In a few dozen lines, the poet describes the glitz and especially the grit of the nation as it awakens, from sea to shining sea

Jared Smith is the author of 14 volumes of poetry, and his work has appeared in hundreds of journals and anthologies in this country, Canada, Mexico, the U.K., and China. He has served on the Editorial Boards of Home Planet News; The New York Quarterly; The Pedestal Magazine; and Turtle Island Quarterly, as well as on the Boards of literary and arts non-profits in New York, Illinois, and Colorado. He is listed in The Colorado Encyclopedia; Poets & Writers; Colorado Poets Center; Who’s Who in America; and other reference sources.

Jared holds a Master’s degree in Literature from New York University, and studied under The Great Books Program at St. John’s College. He has taught at New York University and LaGuardia Community College (CCNY,) and worked as Director of Research and Education at an international laboratory, as Special Advisor to Argonne National Laboratory, and as an advisor to several White House Commissions under President William Clinton. He lives in Colorado, where he spends much of his time in an unimproved log cabin in Roosevelt National Forest.

The following is an excerpt from “That’s How It Is.”

UNDERWRITTEN BY

Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.


“That’s How It Is”

Sunrise finds the New York shopkeepers rolling up their windows
dusting off the counters sweeping the floors shoveling their walkways
pulling pastries from dry hot ovens filling coffee pots to get the morning going
for the secretaries and executives and lawyers bankers insurance salesmen clerks
and the homeless too coming in quietly with their handfuls of fear and empty bellies
because it’s another day, and the workers do what workers do every blessed day
not too aware of what they do or whom they serve but it’s morning and they rise

Jared Smith

and sunrise is indifferent as the clouds and passes on to Pennsylvania
and it reflects redness off the empty steel mills and foundries
where again the shopkeepers rise and here the miners line up for unemployment
or the lucky ones still go down into the darkness of the earth with fear in their hearts
and fishermen line up on the banks of the Alleghany with their thermoses 
and a gum chewing girl from a diner clears egg-smeared plates from tables
watching the traffic that never ends go by along the interstate a seamless zipper

and sunrise hurries on its way out across the freighters on Lake Michigan
and the commodity traders working screaming toward heart attacks in Chicago
the endowed institutions of learning that line our cities the students half asleep
out over the heartland where the grain still grows so high it never touches ground
and on out over eastern and then western Kansas where the aquifers are drying
and the promise of America’s breadbasket is starting to grow thin

“That’s How It Is” by Jared Smith

it moves on across the mountains of Colorado, hiding itself in valleys
and pointing out the oil wells and ore dumps and abandoned ghost towns
the rusting scaffolding of the Roan Plateau the toxic sumps of Climax
and the shopkeepers rising to open their shops for the clerks and lawyers
ranchers driving their herds to the high country or to the low country
depending on the season
it changes but sunrise moves across it and as always work begins
and sunrise has no mind no consciousness of the shadows growing
and of how the same work has to start and be filled each day or 
of the darkness that follows only hours behind and the light
behind that the tired muscles in a man’s arms the panic
at the morning table when the bills come out
the liquor sparkling in taverns after the day is gone
shimmering in the folds of evening gowns but 
it moves on without reference to the thoughts of workers

sunrise brightens up the sands of Vegas and the roulette tables
the hookers high-rollers and papers in the gutters along the strip
the hangovers and empty wallets left over from the night before
and the shop owners the police the judges putting on their pants
the hotel windows glinting back a desert sandscape to the sky

but it moves on and peaks upon the Hollywood sign and the
cougar living in those hills and the movie makers making reality
and flattens out over the iron endless gray of the pacific
but even as the surf is up off California it is growing darker
to the east and the day is as long as the motions we all go through.

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Rising Sun