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J.D. Smith as The Contractor

Character Biography

The Contractor has a resume, but it consists largely of spaces covered in black and the word “redacted”.  Rumors persist regarding events in several locations, but there are no witnesses. Anymore.

His mission now is to eliminate resistance to poetry by all means at his disposal. These include but are not limited to meter, rhyme, humor and free verse delivering even freer flights of association. Once his services are contracted there is no turning back, but no one has ever wanted to do so. In fact, his list of return clients is extensive as well as confidential.

 

P R O F E S S I O N A L   B I O G R A P H Y 

J.D. Smith has published four collections, The Killing Tree (2016), Labor Day at Venice Beach (2012), Settling for Beauty (2005), and The Hypothetical Landscape (1999). His books in other genres include the humor collection Notes of a Tourist on Planet Earth (2013), the essay collection Dowsing and Science (2011), and the children’s picture book The Best Mariachi in the World (2008). Awarded a Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2007, he has also been a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. His individual poems have appeared in The Able MuseAmerican Arts QuarterlyDogwoodLight and Nimrod, as well as numerous other publications, and his prose has appeared in BoulevardChelseaThe Laurel Reviewand The Los Angeles Times. Born in Aurora, Illinois and educated at American University, the University of Chicago, Carleton University and the University of Houston Creative Writing Program, he works as an editor and writer in Washington, DC, where he lives with his wife Paula Van Lare and their rescue animals.

W O R K S A M P L E

The Cool of ‘94

 

Distraught as if a god had died,

They wept and moaned for Kurt Cobain.

Still, Eddie Vedder was their guide

To plumbing depths of white-bread pain.

“Alternative” had yet to wane.

Doc Martens thudded on the floor.

Perhaps Fox Mulder could explain—

Where are the cool of ’94?

 

Where did the slackers run and hide

Who clerked while on a higher plane?

And where the girls those slackers eyed?

Which still wear Seuss hats and disdain

The suit and tie as ball and chain?

Who still shops at the Goodwill Store?

Can any answer this refrain:

Where are the cool of ’94?

 

Did some leave meth and X untried,

Yet find a world of weight to gain?

Do some sell real estate, or ride

In car pools or a morning train?

Since when did they go with the grain?

When did they wise up, learn the score?

The years’ thread spins out from the skein.

Where are the cool of ’94?

 

Like snowflakes melting in the rain,

They’ve lost their shape and are no more.

We ask our former selves, in vain,

Where are the cool of ’94?


W O R K S A M P L E

In a Meme

Cigarette in raffish beak,  

Poe’s raven tells his side of the story.

 

But something doesn’t seem quite right,

and long looking makes it clear:

that coffin nail has a filter, first patented in 1925

in Hungary by one Boris Aivaz.

We could have one long-lived raven on our hands,

but I’ve never heard of anything

warm-blooded racking up the centuries

like tortoises—one of Darwin’s is still alive—

or the deep and ancient Greenland shark.

 

Yet this bird, regardless of age,

might deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Its trickster species has been observed

using tools and mourning their dead,

and we could likely do far worse

than giving them the right to vote.

 

What I see as a cancer stick

might serve them as nesting material—

in Mexico City, menthols among twigs and spit

were found to repel mites and, yea,

a whole host of vermin.

 

If the anachronism still rankles,

it is because a smoker in Poe’s time

would have rolled his human or corvid own

like people in my Washington, DC neighborhood do

to constantly smoke their skunk weed.

 

What actual skunks make of this

is unknown to such science as I read,

but they seem to abide on the National Mall

in burrows opening too wide for just rats—

but like them, tagging along for the omnivore buffet

of kiosk and food truck scraps, inter alia

cheesesteak, pizza, falafel, chicken bone

and the half-smoke, in its origins

most obscure among sausages.

 

Ravens could join them but mostly

avoid the Mall, out of intelligence

or the development of a palate

set for long-term survival.

Which makes sense, as in the meme

the bird’s cigarette is unlit.

It might be training to outlive us. Evermore.