About this poet

R. T. Smith was born in Washington, DC in 1947, and raised in Georgia and North Carolina. His books of poetry include The Hollow Log Lounge (University of Illinois Press, 2003), Brightwood (Louisiana State University Press, 2003), Messenger (2001), Split the Lark: Selected Poems (1999), Trespasser (1996), Hunter-Gatherer (1996), The Cardinal Heart (1991), and From the High Dive (1983). He has also published a collection of stories entitled Faith (1995) and edited Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets of Virginia (2003) with Sarah Kennedy. Trespasser and The Cardinal Heart were both nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry; Smith's other honors include grants in literature from Arts International, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. He has taught at Appalachian State University; Auburn University, where he served as Alumni Writer-in-Residence and co-editor of Southern Humanities Review; and Washington and Lee University. He has been a resident at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig in Ireland, the Millay Colony, and the Wurlitzer Foundation, and in 1998 he was Artist-in-Residence at the National Historical Park at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. R. T. Smith lives in Rockbridge County, Virginia, and has edited Shenandoah: The Washington and Lee University Review since 1995.

Hardware Sparrows

R. T. Smith
Out for a deadbolt, light bulbs 
and two-by-fours, I find a flock 
of sparrows safe from hawks

and weather under the roof 
of Lowe's amazing discount 
store. They skitter from the racks

of stockpiled posts and hoses 
to a spill of winter birdseed 
on the concrete floor. How

they know to forage here, 
I can't guess, but the automatic 
door is close enough,

and we've had a week 
of storms. They are, after all, 
ubiquitous, though poor,

their only song an irritating 
noise, and yet they soar 
to offer, amid hardware, rope

and handyman brochures, 
some relief, as if a flurry 
of notes from Mozart swirled

from seed to ceiling, entreating 
us to set aside our evening 
chores and take grace where

we find it, saying it is possible, 
even in this month of flood, 
blackout and frustration,

to float once more on sheer 
survival and the shadowy 
bliss we exist to explore.

From Messenger by R. T. Smith. Copyright © 2001 by R. T. Smith. Reproduced with permission of Louisiana State University Press. All rights reserved.

From Messenger by R. T. Smith. Copyright © 2001 by R. T. Smith. Reproduced with permission of Louisiana State University Press. All rights reserved.

R. T. Smith

R. T. Smith

R. T. Smith was born in Washington, DC, and raised in Georgia