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Michael Dwayne Smith

Art Made from Happiness Is Shit

 

There’s a poem out there somewhere that begins

“When I look in a mirror, I see myself seeing myself.”

So that’s where we start: I dreamed I made a movie

about my imaginary Japanese girlfriend. Later,

 

in the hotel, she kept me up all night as a delightful

poem. Sure, the food was expensive. And I didn’t

shower for days. Something was lurking in the obvious

fiction of the obvious danger I wanted to marry.

 

One morning she hopped out of bed and put on this

flirty skirt, nipple pink of course, as a dream would

make it in a head like mine, and I remember thinking

I should be lonely, but I’m not. I’m sitting in an

 

expensive decorative chair in a New York hotel room

naked and alive and willing to follow this middle-

school-feeling relationship anywhere. Afterlife

occurred as a possibility to me, also just plain

 

faking it, or worse: a paucity of imagination. Still,

she was happily some part of my personality, and I

was attracted to her in a pleasantly desperate way.

She let me try on her clothes. She dyed her hair

 

blue then red then green then blue again. I lay

for hours on my belly, nestled in the warm covers,

head propped in my hands, and watched her whirl

backwards asking, How shall I wear my identity?

 

 

Let’s Crash

 

It’s Lou Reed’s birthday, so I put on Laurie Anderson’s

Heart of a Dog, have a good cry for all my animals in their

 

selfless deaths, echoes of my helplessness in both ears—

how I searched their faces while little black clouds

 

settled in their eyes. I’m sticking my tongue down the

throat of the Bardo. Sometimes I think like Los Angeles,

 

though more Echo Park than Santa Monica. Actually, a

hot afternoon solo on Pico at Tacos El Tamix, gorging in

 

silence on their alambre (a hash of sautéed al pastor, chili

peppers, onions, bacon, and Oaxacan cheese), tastes pretty

 

lonesome, too, like how Roy Orbison always looked secretly

sad even when singing about beautiful women. I know these

 

liquor stores, graffitied churches, and smog-choked palms,

Porsches, porches, Adderall, flea markets, knives, guns,

 

rape spray, straight or gay, Chinese New Years taking

both wallet and breath away, movie stars you think you’d

 

like to meet, Venus as a boy down an unlit side street, from

the valley to the hood, city in every direction but up, city

 

disguised as a body, from Mexican Korea Town to Rich

White Ghettos, its histories knotted like the veins of a

 

Tarantino mock-umentary on speedball, we the blood to

the brain and the asshole, doped expansive on rock-’n’-roll

 

’n race, nourishing this body without a face. On second

thought, let’s do Santa Monica, let’s crash Chez Jay for an

 

Angus steak, and after all the martinis and Wild Turkey

shots, it will be, of a sudden, last call—we’ll amble into a

 

two-a.m. fog that skims the arc-light street as we circle

block after block, forgetting where we parked our lives.

 

 

Michael Dwayne Smith haunts many literary houses, including Bending Genres, The Cortland Review, Gyroscope Review, Gargoyle, Third Wednesday, Heavy Feather Review, Monkeybicycle, and Chiron Review. Author of four books, recipient of the Hinderaker Poetry Prize, the Polonsky Prize for fiction, and multiple Pushcart Prize/Best of the Net nominations, he lives near a Mojave Desert ghost town with his family and rescued horses.

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