j. mark smith image


Jurisdiction of the Self-Cleaning Oven

[Alberta in late 2006]

That booze-wise, two-stroke shill the party boss.
An assembly close to thirty years redundant.
Civic revulsion stillborn. PR gloss
the face of untried force: plain truth best blent
with ooze, like bitumen under a cap of moss.
More realtors by the day, His agents, sent
corkscrew to panic cork—for buyers want
into the exurbs. With subliming oil,
contractors aerate worm-eaten promises.
Teams of lone men, trucks idling at low boil,
in the dawn are off to rightful work. Down Lethe-
stream, a head, someone else’s, lolls by. Thyrsus
in shade. Crack, crystal meth, percs. FASD.
The magpies brawl. Time pings, forensically.


Mark Smith was born about six years before the Progressive Conservative party began ruling Alberta. He went away and came back and now teaches English at MacEwan University in Edmonton. His poems have appeared most recently in The Malahat Review.


To view other poems published in this issue please visit Vallum’s website.