Assistant Editor Caitlin Doyle: Jess Smith’s “Path of Totality” presents us with a moving, complex, and multilayered exploration of what it means to see and be seen. After viewing the solar eclipse, the poem’s speaker reflects on her absentee father (“My father lives near here / I’ve heard, alone, in a cave or a field or behind / someone else’s home, but I won’t / call him…”). Smith draws a resonant parallel between the dangers of watching a solar eclipse without protective glasses (“we’re all afraid / of going blind”) and the emotional risks inherent in reaching out to somebody who has abandoned you. As “Path of Totality” progresses, Smith spurs us to consider what might happen if we allow forces beyond us—solar, lunar, or otherwise—to disarm our defenses.
To hear Jess Smith read her poem, you can click below:
“Path of Totality”
by Jess Smith
Walking back from the Ingles in Hiawassee, Georgia. Shirtless boys selling celestial paraphernalia from the backs of their best friends’ Chevys. My father lives near here, I’ve heard, alone, in a cave or in a field or behind someone else’s home, but I won’t call him, wouldn’t even know his number or the slant of his hello. Does he have an iPhone? Whose picture lights up the screen when he unlocks it? What glasses must he don to look directly at her? I hate to say it but eclipse originally meant the abandonment. I’m worried about aging from too much sun, worried about looking any less beautiful the next time I see an old love, we’re all worried about going blind even though these glasses say NASA, say ISO Certified, but when the low mountains are nighttime still and the crickets, confused, start chirping and I’m so bourbon soaked and daytime cold I think maybe I should call my father, maybe aging is worth the warmth, maybe it’s better to go blind all at once and from something beautiful.
Jess Smith‘s work has appeared or is forthcoming in 32 Poems, Waxwing, Juked, Sixth Finch, Winter Tangerine, and other journals. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English at Texas Tech University where she cofounded and curates the LHUCA Literary Series.
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