Hartley LeHuray Smith (1924-1988)

by Elizabeth Greene

I wanted to marry him when I was twelve,
he, thirty-two—and I did
in the game of families we played at camp
that summer.  My most functional family.
I should have stopped right then.

He was tall, loose-limbed, serious.
He’d been a cowboy—when he rode,
looked part of the horse.  Canoeing,
he paddled, easy, a silver line
through the dark lake.

I can still see him in his great blue shirt.

I was supposed to tell him when he frowned
so he wouldn’t have worry lines when he grew old.
But he never did—he died at 64, car crash,
mid-December, on one of those slippery snowbelt roads.

The obit I found online said he’d had a friend, Dr. Jill,
had travelled with her to West Africa,
the South Pacific, as she researched
tropical agriculture.
He’d been to Yale Law, practiced,
but by that camp summer he was living in New York.
Writing philosophy, people said.  Was any of it published?

He retired near where he was born,
west Finger Lakes, grew apricot trees
in his organic garden.

He left me with a fondness for all Smiths,
a predilection for blue shirts,
the bar set high.
No matter that I couldn’t reach—
it’s better high.

— from Juniper Volume 1, Issue 1