I’m reading Smith’s blog. It’s a rant about Cheney and company. He writes: my english professor always said evil was banal – cheney proves it.

It’s not the first time he’s cited an English professor. I’m editing his memoir, so I keep an eye out for these little tidbits. At the Naval Academy prep school, his professor told him, “You’re wasting your time writing porno ads. Spend your time writing a poem.” Another English professor at Loyola gave him the validation he needed to leave his first wife.

Smith’s typing away on his ever-present laptop. I interrupt him: “Seems your English professor was a big influence on you.”

“All three at Loyola were,” he says. “They were all superb. I was even the teacher’s pet for my English teacher in high school. She invited me over to her house once. I, of course, assumed we were going to have sex. Being a virgin, I thought she was going to teach me how to do it.”

“So what happened?”

“Nothing. We sat around. I was uncomfortable for the entire afternoon. The thing about being a guy — an inexperienced guy — is you never know what you’re supposed to do or if you’re supposed to make a move. I could never make a move unless somebody handed me a piece of paper saying, Go ahead and do it, kid.”

“That’s funny. You’re funny.”

“I’m also honest. Camus said the writer’s never honest. Man’s never honest. But he’s wrong. You can be honest.”

“Now you got Camus in your head.”

“Oh, I love Camus. I’m going to read more stuff. There’s a short Camus essay I’m going to put in a blog.”

“Why do you like Camus?” I ask. “I mean, what in particular are you reading now that excites you?”

“What do I like about him? Well, I referenced him in one of my early poems, Suicide Note:

Camus’ first question of philosophy re
weaves Thane Hamlet’s “or not to be,”

He continues. “Camus says the first question of philosophy is do I kill myself or not. If the answer is no, you have a responsibility for everything that’s going on in the world. Camus refined that a little more in the book I’m reading in the bathroom. He wrote, if you eat and breathe, you’re making value judgments.

“That poem was an assignment. First day of class, the poetry teacher said, ‘Write down a color.’ I wrote down orange. He had us write down six more words. Then said, ‘Next time you come to class, bring a poem.’

“When I read that in class, there was an amazed and impressed silence. They’d never gotten something like that.”


Poor naked ape, melancholy Dane
Dying the silent, sinking orange
I offer my praise to mad Ophelia’s black mass.
Receiving Laertes’ pain poisoned harangue
I’ll soon join that fortunate lass
Morpheusly oblivious of pain
(Camus’ first question of philosophy re
weaves Thane Hamlet’s “or not to be,”
brings Kant’s “progressive unification of
sense manifold” to termination: total
psychic expiration. Hence our sole
existential goal becomes fervently wishing
good death’s black ghoul to sensually become
as one with our whole)
Where God assumes skull Yorick’s reign
Stay yet awhile Horatio, give lie to my name.

s b smith

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