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Palm Sunday

By Austin Smith

 

No need for social distancing then. When

Christ came riding into Jerusalem

 

On a donkey, his bare feet nearly

Brushing the roadside rye, he was

 

At once vaccine and cure, his breath

Their ventilator. Death’s dominion had come

 

Under his sway. All the throng could think

To do was to lay palm fronds down

 

Before him to calm the dust the way,

In 1918, they’d spray the unpaved roads

 

Of Middle Western towns from tanks on trucks

Driven by men whose faces were lost

 

Even to their children under the masks,

Worn not for the dust (which they were

 

Darkening as if with anointing water),

But for the air.

 


Austin Smith grew up on a family dairy farm in northwestern Illinois. He received a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an MA from the University of California-Davis, and an MFA from the University of Virginia. He has published three poetry chapbooks: In the Silence of the Migrated Birds; Wheat and Distance; and Instructions for How to Put an Old Horse Down. His full-length collections, Almanac and Flyover Country, were published through the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets. Austin’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, Yale Review, Sewanee Review, Ploughshares, New England Review, Poetry East, ZYZZYVA, Pleiades, Virginia Quarterly Review, 32 Poems and Threepenny Review, amongst others. His stories have appeared or will appear in Harper’s, Glimmer Train, Kenyon Review, EPOCH, Sewanee Review, Threepenny Review, Fiction and Narrative Magazine. He was the recipient of the 2015 Narrative Prize for his short story, “The Halverson Brothers,” a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in fiction from Stanford University, an NEA Fellowship in Prose, and the Amy Lowell Traveling Scholarship. He is currently a Jones Lecturer at Stanford, where he teaches courses in poetry, fiction, environmental literature and documentary journalism, but he mostly lives in a farmhouse in Schapville, Illinois.

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