Five Poems

Poetry by Aram Saroyan
Afterthaw, by Casey Jex Smith. Copyright the artist. Courtesy MEPAINTSME.


When I look at Ted
In the painting by Alex
Pinned to the wall
By the computer
I'm reminded of nothing
But the ineffable essence
Life's mysterious gifts
Of air, peace, friendship
Things seen and then not seen
In the gaze of time
In the sun and the moon
On the sidewalks of New York
Well, that was shaky
As Frank would say
Now you may sit down
And complete the spaghetti
You perfect fool of space
And its round alibis


I believe Delmore Schwartz
was getting at something
before he died
What it was though
would be difficult to describe

Take, for instance, the way he extols
Marilyn Monroe
Trying to extrapolate her sexual
Bravado into a Puritan
Parable of redemption
from Puritanism

I see the sun setting in his Manhattan
hotel room in the desolate 1950s
Lowell and Jarrell and Berryman
on their own crusades
And Delmore trying to save the nation


If death didn't happen to everyone,
we'd regard it as really far out.


We went horseback riding in Iowa City
He got me to sit on a horse when I was a hippie
And like it! Because the horse and I
Came to an understanding

First time I saw him: Summer of ’66
In London with Tom Clark
We went to his place where everyone
Was smoking joints, the thing to do

He muttered to himself sociably
To make us and everyone feel welcome
Yes, absolutely, un-hunh
It’s true, that’s the way it goes

Such a musical ear
And now this vocal instrument
Gleaned of decades being gently there
With his wife, Jane Dalrymple


I’ve been listening to
a few chords of Harlem
on My Mind. Harlem 
on My Mind someone 
sang and then Art
Tatum was supposed to play:

I told someone the fastest
but swingingest piano player
in history. My left hip
has a stitch in it
from a yoga position that 
released a lot of anger
like a bad carnival.

And maybe I insulted
a friend who went tripping
down a staircase that looked
endless like I was or wasn’t
supposed to follow.
So I didn’t (due to the hip).
And he never returned

And I forgot his name,
tried to find it in his office.
Then remembered it and
that he was my boss.
(Money.) Then
I played that record
and realized the refrain

Harlem on My Mind
Harlem on My Mind
was the emotion (tragic)
coming through to claim me.
It means you’re living
and will be annealed
in stone (later).

Aram Saroyan

Aram Saroyan is the author of Still Night in L.A.: A Detective Novel as well as many other books of prose and poetry. His Complete Minimal Poems received the 2008 William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. He is featured in the documentary film One Quick Move or I’m Gone: Jack Kerouac at Big Sur and his comments appear in the oral biographies George Being George: George Plimpton’s Life and Salinger. In recent years he has worked primarily as an artist. A show of his work opens at the Francis Gallery in Los Angeles on June 28 and will run through July and August 2024.

Casey Jex Smith

Echoing the delicate lines of traditional engraving, Casey Jex Smith's intricate pen and ink drawings unravel into phantasmagorical visions, populated by sprites and anthropomorphic flora. The influence of these psychedelic parables are rooted in the artist's devout Mormon upbringing. "At the centre of Mormon belief is an expanded narrative built around the Garden of Eden" Smith explains, "When you attend temple ceremonies, you watch films that go into this narrative in great detail, and they tend to be made using elaborate Hollywood-type sets of the biblical garden as paradise. It's a place I want to be in. Unintentionally it's also a sexually charged place where you and your perfect mate tromp around in the nude, eat fruit, and pet goats." ¹

His illustrational style can also be traced to the more low-brow influences of his adolescence, like the detailed drawings found in the earliest editions of Dungeons and Dragons. The artworks of in-house illustrators like David A Trampier, David C Sutherland III and Erol Otus were fantastically detailed and often bordered on the naive - they left their mark on the young artist. "The drawings were a little bit better than what the teenagers who were playing the game would have made themselves," ² states Smith. Though the mythical universe created by Smith is one of an accomplished draftsman, its true power resides in its visual density and a seemingly limitless imagination.

Casey Jex Smith received a BFA in Painting from Brigham Young University and an MFA in Painting from the San Francisco Art Institute. He currently resides in Provo, Utah with his wife and fellow artist Amanda Smith and their two children. His art has been exhibited at The Drawing Center (NYC), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (SF), Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UT), and Spring Break (LA). His work has been featured in ArtReview Magazine, The Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle,,, ArtMaze Magazine, and New American Paintings.

1, 2. Sharma, Manu. "Casey Jex Smith speaks of his sublime and fluid realms." Stir world, Feb 03, 2021.