T.J. Smith

And Before

A point of broken glass shone in the grout
After she crawled on hand and knee for hours
After her hands were rivulets of blood
After the empty bottle tumbled down
After the bottle emptied into him
After a row of empty bottles laughed
After he was let go from the firm
After it wasn’t anybody’s fault
After the child didn’t sleep all night
After they painted and sanded down the corners
After he carried her across the threshold
After the home was christened with a bottle
After the frame rose like Lazarus
After the concrete emptied into the ground
After the subdivision plan was set
After the living trees came tumbling down
After the dead trees laughed and were removed
After the paperless men came in with blades and hats
After the city councilman came around
After the quiet exchange of gifts
After the swamp was full of stagnant pond
After the insects sang “not here, not here”
After here, and anywhere but here.


I’ve been asked to remind you

there’s only so long you get
away with inconsolable grieving.

It’s about time
the seasons turn again

to barrenness,
the sky still opening

every day for you
its quickfire amber filters

and you not looking.
You have to return

the muck-stained casserole
dishes piling in your sink sometime.

You have to want to.

Author Portrait

T.J. Smith is a poet and educator in New York. Originally from Jacksonville, Florida, Smith studied German and Creative Writing at Princeton, and he’s currently completing an MFA at NYU, where he’s the Web Editor of Washington Square Review. Recently, his work has appeared in Cheat River Review, The Southampton Review, and Bridge Eight, among others.

View the website of T.J. Smith