Skip to content
Contact USI


by Aumaine Rose Smith

Hairpin turns in the canyon, the sea only a notion
behind gold grass and chaparral.

A sky so open it questions our bliss.

New husband, love has long been in the looking,
the space between us fine as glass.

To streetlights through blinds, we shattered that
and woke and dressed in our separateness.

Airline, city, desert, canyon: hill or cloud
shadow, the same sun on both our upturned faces.


At first: you all lit up in a casino, rare steaks
we hardly sit still enough to eat. My eager heart

beating fast then faster beneath spotlights,
mechanical music, and smoke until there we are: fallen

asleep in swimsuits at sunset
to stir draped in brilliance at dawn. City, desert, canyon:

your lips through my hair against my skull.


At the rest stop, a hot wind blows sand
against our skin. I want you but feel afraid to ask.

Few clothes, limbs long in the rental car’s neutrality,
the sense we are visiting and will leave.

Desert to canyon, if I soundtrack cacti and dust
with a list of desired outcomes (how close can we get?)

will your hands stay steady against the wheel?


When we return (and to where?) we will be changed,
the story goes.

Yes, we have jointly envisioned the space we will inhabit,
jointly journeyed to that place

we think of as empty. But what if I cannot carry
the baggage I promised to carry, if you cannot rest

where deer still pad circles in grass we did not grow.


Outside the canyon boutique, you press a rock
into my palm: smooth gray on top but

underneath all gone to crystal. Like salt. What can we afford?
Not the stories we read into totem, flora, landscape.

Not to be sold an imagined unity.
And each song of the wind chime unrepeatable.

And the silent golden hairs above your collar.


Lying in the cabin someone else has painted white,
the electric fireplace reflects in your eye.

The shock of your face so close like a wave
crashes mid-sentence and I cannot think

of who bedded here last, cannot track my responsiveness
to your touch. Night darkens the windows

and we go down, down past language past ownership
we go down into ourselves to make this work.

Writing "Honeymooning," I read Adrienne Rich and Joanna Klink and longed for a simple form that could put emphasis on images from a world of new marriage, and the emotion and statements those images engender. The poem is careful, hesitant to claim too much, though the speaker sees plenty to desire at every turn. So the form is of level lines, mostly couplets, with the occasional floating line gesturing to that which is incomplete, or which cannot presently be known, this lack at the heart of longing. I found myself hoping that these formal choices could illustrate the irony of the intimate situation. Faced with the lover, present in absorbing landscapes, the speaker, for all the narratives she has received—narratives from my backgrounds of Christianity, of Western romanticism, of American ideology—cannot summon a firm belief in the possibility of unity the occasion of the honeymoon suggests. Instead, she struggles with the violence and erasure in any easy picture of unity. But something like communion does arrive in fleeting moments, if not often through the expected means. I wanted this poem to feel full of complexity and doubt, longing and tenderness, and for a form that knows more than the speaker does, or I do, a balanced form, to hold it all.

Aumaine Rose Smith has received support from the Chautauqua Writer’s Workshop, the Allerton artist-in-residence program, and the Illinois Department of Dance’s Choreographic Platform. Her work appears or is forthcoming in New England Review, AGNI, Kenyon Review, Pleiades, Meridian, and other journals. Currently the operations manager for Beloit Poetry Journal, Smith is at work on her debut collection.