[b]Sunshine State[/b]

In wood gray comes
soon before falling down.
Inland Florida being no exception,
across the road a gate creaking
“Keep Out” where the rusty sun sets,
and a seven-year-old girl tore her dress
on the barbed wire fence
behind which a dirt road
disappears in a field of burrs
and weeds and nothing
ever happens.
The sun seems distant,
yet it bakes the air
from horizon to horizon;
and the moon,
when it gets close to the land,
turns maroon, turns the land
a kind of sinister shallow pale.
The three of us watch the
bonfires down the road
set by a man my mother
calls a pyromaniac.
And when my father comes home,
with his usual bright humor,
calling this place “The Ranch,”
she reminds him of the fact
that it is a shack. A gray wood shack.
The shack adds fuel to their nasty fights
this being only the latest, sorriest hole
he?s dumped his family in
along a string of failed jobs, binges,
increasingly prolonged absences
.. .until one final sun-seared afternoon
she drags two suitcases
and her three children down
the long, hot, shimmering road
to catch a bus to another life
bought by her father,
leaving behind only
a letter from a woman,
hotly disputed and in pieces,
blown and scattered on the floor…
Turning back to look, I see the shack.
Dead wood; unkindled by the sun.

[b]Early Light[/b]

If all he had was the chance
to fumble darkly toward a better end,
and grope along his unlit stairway,
he’d have gladly accepted the opportunity,
if only for the feeling he was getting somewhere.
But now he must be content to stay,
to measure out the dimensions of his heart;
Because here, a light burns softly,
even through the hooded lens of his eye;
warm, numinous. . . illuminating
and, sometime, it tells him,
he will make his way into the crowded days;
single out the faces that seek remembering;
the identifying sorrows etched in every face;
record the time and place of their passing,
like an Etruscan painter whose portraits
left the only traces of a long disremembered
people–that their eyes might gaze,
limpid with futile beauty,
into ours.

[b]River run[/b]

Time’s the river rushing on,
swallows tributary lives,
visible until they’re gone.

Push against or pull upon
–life’s the thing that just arrives-
Time’s the river rushing on.

It’s the stream where humans spawn,
wriggle through their dwindling lives,
visible until they’re gone.

Earth, wind, and fire carry on:
Drink again what life revives.
Time’s the river rushing on.

Take a look at everyone,
know there’s meaning in their lives
(time’s the river rushing on)
visible until they’re gone.


This place has been like
Out-of-season spring
These last few days.
Something has descended here;
Hard to believe.
I’ve heard more silence here,
Seen more empty space
than I dare to recall.
Inner and outer worlds have,
for the moment,
Become convexed and concaved.
There was no autumn here.
There will be no spring.
The ice will splinter, not melt.
No mirror needed
For silent splendor
To be turned over, and over, and over
In the machinery; as if the earth were not
a catch-all of the perfectly insignificant.
When loud Significance
Rolled its hammered rivets over everything
To conquer, entirely, the Great American Plain,
To bring
The Urgency of Cities
It left echoes, now audibly caroming
off the planets and the planets’ moons.
This urgency must of itself
burn itself out.
Time tells us that.
Let the future come.
let it come in purple glaze
Like absinthe in the mouth.
And brilliant, multicolored sand in the eyes.
Let it seize itself with its own power
Let it have its compound hour, compounded again,
Turning itself into shards of ambition and chaos.
Leaving itself nowhere to go.
Which is exactly what it did.
Went nowhere. Did nothing.
Waiting to be rediscovered!
Immolation of the known
Leaves no residue on the unknown:
World after world. . . sigh upon sigh.

[b]Walking by the Cemetery[/b]

A butterfly,
the dog and I
and, yes, Spring’s Fool,
with those who sigh
for those gone by,
now sleeping in Time’s pool.

[b]Song for My Father[/b]

So, this is what you left us:
this is your legacy-
our hair full of rain, our eyes clouded,
we look back at you, across the dead years,
across the pain and sorrow,
tracing the lineaments of our inheritance
to a glazed stare
in a cheap hotel room
and a black phone
you never rang.

[b]In Remembrance[/b]

When you died you became as silent
as footprints covered by fresh snow.
You were suddenly an unwritten letter
composed in the mind, but not put to paper.
Your clothes hung empty in the closet,
as though waiting for you to step into them;
but you are no longer you and we don’t know
who you are, or where you’ve gone, or why.
Removed so far from us you might as well have
lapsed into the silent folds of the deepsea,
or lain scribbled in an ancient poem on a shelf
in the drowned library of Alexandria.
You have joined the silent chorus of the dead.
Like winter warmth you simply emptied yourself
into the perplexity of infinite space.
You walked and sat and talked among us once;
but that no longer happens and never will.
What you have taken with you is more
than can be said or thought of in a lifetime.
So the time has come to resolutely take you back
out of the mere shuffle of humanity, prize you
in the secret details of profound, unspoken grief,
and keep you in the sealed memory of our hearts.

by Christopher Swan (c) 2002
([email]chrishmael [at] yahoo [dot] com[/email])

[b]Author’s Note:[/b]
Christopher Swan’s life reflects his poetry – or vice versa. His poetry tends to the eclectic and idiosyncratic just as his life has, from truck-loader to apprentice for The New York Shakespeare Festival to work in films. Christopher became a full-fledged journalist as a New York Correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor, later writing features and an arts column there. His work appeared in The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times many other papers. He’s written for numerous magazines.

His poetry has appeared on the Web, most notably in the Absinthe Literary Review. Chris started writing poetry for publication this past summer.

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