Saturday, July 14, 2012
Marc Swan - Three Poems
Belgrade Coffee Shop
Our bombs fell day after day
and every night for many
the music played
in that bombed out coffee
shop for those who stayed.
The CDs now on my player,
logs lighted on the fire,
chilled Spanish wine in hand
trying to imagine
what they felt as homes
crumbled, mud sloshed
rivers flowed with debris,
human and otherwise,
unsheared sheep baaed, cows
mooed, horses screeched
a shrill piercing sound
being cut down,
sliced crudely into rough strips,
laid on open fires and eaten.
In a small, clean, well lighted room beneath
the seven stories where young Somali
women and young Hispanic men empty
wastebaskets, mop floors, vacuum rugs
The Poet reads the last poem in his selection.
It’s a story of loss—his brother’s suicide—
and how he met an old friend for dinner
and they talked of his brother. The friend
asked: How did he do it? and The Poet
by now into his third glass of red wine,
feeling the melancholy of the moment,
appreciating the company of an old friend
starts to tell what he had promised himself
he would never say out loud. His friend lifts
his hand looking over The Poet’s shoulder.
The Poet pauses thinking this may not
be the best moment to share this story,
that perhaps it is too much for an old friend.
The friend tells The Poet that an actress,
someone whose work he admires, has just
passed their table. The Poet nods to us,
emphasizing the stark intent of that moment.
After this poem, the reading has ended.
The Poet has brought books to sell. I’ve never
heard this poet before, never read his poems
but I like his way with words. I go up to him
and ask for a copy of his latest book. He
reaches into a large red bag full of books,
hands me the copy and I give him the cash.
His eyes meet my eyes. Will you sign it I say?
Dedicate it to my wife. His eyes shift away
crossing the arc of my shoulder to the right
of my head reaching the eyes of an old friend
who has suddenly moved into view.
In the rambling wreck of uncertainty
we call day to day life
so far from the predictability we knew
as a child in a far away time
when rivers flowed cleaner and purer,
grass a true green, no additives,
flowers bloomed wild and crazy,
people passed on the street said hell-o
how are you and actually meant it.
Unlike today when simple kindness
is lost to malice aforethought—
new and improved killing fields.
A bullet’s worth more than a life
in Somalia where they carry their guns
as easily as we carry a wallet tucked
into the hip pocket of our jeans.
Wild berries still grow above the tree line,
if only the raven could teach us to fly.
Marc Swan is a vocational rehabilitation counselor living in Portland Maine; new work coming out in Slipstream, Pearl, Common Ground and The Owen Wister Review; Simple Distraction, a collection of his poems from 1989 to 2009, was published in fall 2009 by tall-lighthouse in London England.