Jess Smith

The Natural World

Why did he like them
so much, these outside 
fucks? We couldn’t 
stroll a city block 
without him clocking 
every caverned alley, nor 
could we enjoy nature 
without him begging me 
to lie down in the grass 
in the exact outline 
of his shadow. Once, 
there were bison 
just inches from us. (I’ve 
written of this before, 
and who wouldn’t revisit 
the image?) They smelled 
mangy and milky 
like him, like his 
beard, like my body 
when he was done. What 
was he hoping for? 
We all understand 
the specifics, but I think 
he needed a release 
from fear, a brave ecstasy 
in the valley, and maybe 
a cave to pretend 
to retreat to – yes, 
he said he wanted me, 
but really, I was just 
a horse he rode toward 
some receding sunset, 
some gold horizon he thought 
he saw once, but at least 
he kept trying 
to reach it, at least 
I was a good horse. 

Jess Smith is the author of Lady Smith (forthcoming from University of Akron Press). Her work can be found in Prairie Schooner, The Cincinnati Review, 32 Poems, The Rumpus, and other journals. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Practice at Texas Tech University.