Springtime in the great Atlantic north east
The mountains scream
but the air still smells
standing outside I sip
from a tired cup of coffee
waiting for a lazy sun
I have resigned myself
to residing within
this tiny hamlet
for the sake
but I feel like
a third baseman
in the court of Camelot
waiting for the inning
for here the seventh inning stretch
is a way of life
& the game just drags on
like that visit to grandmas
the one who smells of mothballs & ben-gay
& all of her food
tastes like it was made
from a cookbook
about the Great Depression
this town has a way of settling
into your lungs
like powder made from bricks
& every road
out of town has a sign
” you are now leaving the borough common-
thank you for not overstaying your welcome”
every time I read that
I think I should have
taken their advice
You might splash around in these crystals
for coolness, or to lose yourself in spontaneity and light;
you could pull flowers, or read graves
in an ecstasy of detached nostalgia;
because this is no necropolis,
more a village fete,
and words come off the stone airily:
they sing of love and regeneration,
of strength and fragility.
They tell of release and longing,
of fragmented memories too precious,
too hard to reassemble;
they sing to me long after time
and the relentless chasing of days
have taken their toll,
have taken me away for more years
than is seemly;
and far, far too long for sorry.
Seminary days, I spent time
reading Hebrew. The book’s cover,
a heather, like woven canvas,
the text, heavy marks of black ink
on cream-colored paper, I felt,
despite my grade-schooler stumblings
over mystifying words, on a journey.
I remember reading backwards,
from right to left, seeking what I knew,
the sacred meanings in the words.
Now, I read backwards into yesterday,
words I penned, words that said
I knew what I didn’t know I knew,
words that sometimes touched, under
layers of subsoil, topsoil, and leaf litter,
under layers and layers of accretion,
the cold rock. Dad was dying, and I
was writing. But, with my eyes, and
in my day-to-day, I couldn’t see,
I wouldn’t see. There on the page,
in my own words, in my poems,
the bare truth speaking back to me.
Charles A. Swanson
Hazel Wood Histories
a window through the laurel
and that’s where he’d usually be
basking in the shade
if you were really quiet you’d hear him
unable to contain the fizzing of his youth
all scabby knees and blue bruises
on skinny legs
there was a doorway too
it led down through the hazel wood
to the river that gets louder and louder
until the ridge
where the big boots had marked
succulent thorns sprout
he alone kept the path in dust as raspberry season passes
a bonanza for birds
he’s too old for hide and seek
now his voice has broken
the elder finding infirmity from a borrowed kidney
She began to prefer taking tea, alone
In her SoHo bedroom
Often with the door to her tiny cell closed,
heavy shades half-way drawn
Something about knowing that the neighbors’ could
“See inside her pantry”, she once tried to tell me
The unused airline tickets piled up on the bookcase,
Sent from New York City, round trip
By her sister
Invitations from the officially placed and decorated,
Along with Post Office phone bills
She’d only open her door for me
When I stopped in on Tuesday afternoons
And only if I promised to bring her news
Of how her son, James, who was killed in the Troubles,
Was making out, up in County Tyrone
She’d sit, and talk, those afternoons
As I picked up a bit,
But she’d tell me it was time to leave
As shadows darkened her slow, sad, room
“Fine, just fine,” I’d always tell her,
“He cannot wait to get back home
Should be back, any day, now.”
She’d smile and walk me to the door
“That’s why I just can’t travel, these days
I need to be here, for my James.”
Then she’d lock the door behind me
And I’d head to Millroy’s on Greek
To wash down my lies
With the slightest shine of her ancient eyes
as I do every week
We Shinnied Up
We shinnied up the slender, smooth-barked,
tropical-looking tree, pulled ourselves onto
the garage roof, and sat on the slanted edge until
the nerve arrived to push off, me and my brother,
Sal. I was older and full to the brim, taking
the leap with something like savoir faire while
Sal sat sometimes for an hour or more summoning
up a mystery very deep inside before letting go.
One day an idle cop was prowling nearby
and saw him perched like a boat’s bowsprit
on the rusty tin roof and eased his sedan up the
graveled driveway to investigate. “Get off
the roof!” he yelled through his rolled-down
window, “You goddam fuckin’ monkey!”
And Sal tumbled like an acrobat through the bright air.
black witch, tehi tegi of triskelion.
ride in the silent, laughterless, stillness
on capall ban, past holthans and haggards.
Lead your adorers to the great river
and by your black arts make it passable.
Lead them, six hundred to its deepest place
command the winds, churn the torpid waters
drown the sacrificees in this sad place.
oh lovely seductress the deed is done
no ling for fires, absent children’s voices,
an old tramman tree and Jenny nettles.
Be thou cleverest and finest beauty
transform thyself. Pipistrelle, daubenton?
Capall ban become porpoise forever.
The kitchen door burst open as a raging bull
grunted and stamped with discontent.
He ranted white noise that fell on deaf ears
as she played her favourite song on repeat in her head.
She didn’t want or need to understand him.
Rasps, grinds and shrieks tried to pierce
her bubble but they may as well have been
wet peas squashing in the sink.
His breath erupted like a boiling kettle burning, quaking, spewing foul gases into the room. The hissing vapour transformed into butterflies in the mists of her daydream
of happier times and she sighed that last breath of summer.
His fiery autumn words fell like dead leaves onto the cold
tiled floor as he realised a lonely time lay ahead.
He knew that she was free of him
as he watched her stir grains of frost into her mug.
The ring of the spoon against its walls sounded the last chime of their journey together. He left the room, crumpling a snowdrift carpet in the hallway and he picked up his clinking, chained keys and walked through the front door.
It slammed shut with a giant thump, like the close of a stone coffin lid in a crypt, but she didn’t notice a thing. He was just
a ghost of winters past, silently fading away as her lips touched warm chocolate froth and all was good in the world.