Tracy K. Smith, b. 1972;
U.S. Poet Laureate, 2017-
David Bowie (1947-2016) as
Bowie as Thin White Duke
Tracy K. Smith
Don't You Wonder, Sometimes?
dark, stars glisten like ice, and the distance they span
Hides something elemental. Not God, exactly. More like
Some thin-hipped glittering Bowie-being—a Starman
Or cosmic ace hovering, swaying, aching to make us see.
And what would we do, you and I, if we could know for sure
was there squinting through the dust,
Saying nothing is lost, that everything lives on waiting
to be wanted back badly
enough? Would you go then,
for a few nights, into that other life where you
And that first she loved, blind to the future once, and
Would I put
on my coat and return to the kitchen where my
Mother and father sit waiting, dinner keeping warm on the
Bowie will never die.
Nothing will come for him in his sleep
Or charging through his veins. And he'll never grow old,
Just like the woman you lost, who will always be
flush-faced, running toward an electronic screen
That clocks the minutes, the miles left to go. Just like
In which I'm forever a
child looking out my window at the night sky
Thinking one day I'll touch the world with bare hands
Even if it burns.
leaves no tracks. Slips past, quick as a cat. That's Bowie
For you: the Pope of Pop, coy as Christ. Like a play
Within a play, he's trademarked twice. The hours
like water from a window A/C. We sweat it out,
Teach ourselves to wait. Silently, lazily, collapse
But not for Bowie. He cocks his head, grins that wicked
stops, but does it end? And how many lives
Before take-off, before we find ourselves
Beyond ourselves, all glam-glow, all twinkle and gold?
isn't what it used to be. Even Bowie thirsts
For something good and cold.
Jets blink across the sky
is among us. Right here
York City. In a baseball cap
expensive jeans. Ducking into
A deli. Flashing all those
At the doorman on his way
Or he's hailing a taxi on
As the sky clouds over
He's in no rush. Doesn't
The way you'd think he feels.
Doesn't strut or gloat. Tells jokes.
here all these years
seen him. Like not knowing
from a shooting star.
But I'll bet he burns bright,
Dragging a tail of white-hot matter
The way some of us track tissue
Back from the toilet stall. He's got
The whole world under his foot,
And we are small alongside,
Though there are occasions
When a man
his size can meet
Your eyes for
just a blip of time
And send a
thought like SHINE
SHINE SHINE SHINE SHINE
Straight to your mind. Bowie,
I want to believe you. Want to feel
Your will like the wind before rain.
The kind everything simply obeys,
Swept up in that hypnotic dance
something with the power to do so
Had looked its way and said:
from Life on Mars (2011), copied from
Life on Mars won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for