Erin Elizabeth Smith

What We Undo

“I’m afraid I can’t quite remember it,” Alice said, very politely.

“In that case, we start afresh.”


We always color our beginnings white,
the slink of a sheet rolled
in its glossy typewriter,

or the squared-off canvas
we stretch to fit the wood.
We begin with a certain emptiness,

things that can be filled.
A new house beams its eggshell
walls, a church almost,

or lined stacks of sliced bread
desperate for jam.
The party begins

with rows of empty glasses.
We know the red that colors
them but the hushed gleam

is a promise more of lips,
their pink snowflake patterns
and the hands that pinch the stem.

But there are no beginnings like this,
no pallid whiteness to startle into life,
no bleached sky looking for its season.

Instead a thrift store trunk
with a mossy doll inside.
The well-traveled box that held

dishes, then sheets.
The hallways and doors
we each used to pass through.

Erin Elizabeth Smithis the Creative Director at the Sundress Academy for the Arts and the author of two full-length collections, The Fear of Being Found (Three Candles Press 2008) and The Naming of Strays (Gold Wake Press 2011). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Mid-American, 32 Poems, Zone 3, Gargoyle, Tusculum Review, and Crab Orchard Review. She teaches a bit of everything in the English Department at the University of Tennessee and serves as the managing editor of Sundress Publications and Stirring.

Leave a Reply