Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Todd Swift

For the Boy in the Choir with Tourette’s

He slaps his face as others take communion,
A joyful disunion lurking in a devil’s abandon
That plays jerky havoc with his composure;
A boy of maybe ten or eleven, corpulent

With brown curls and a wide open stare,
Struck into the choir like a daring nail, who
Takes the music into him and jabs it out
Every third bar by an angelic shout;

I feel comforted he is up there, exposed
For all to ignore or mock. In a sea of doubt
And conceit and sin, his two-faced
Demon that winks about his eyes and mouth

Every so often with a punch to the head
Is all the compulsion I need to recognise
For all the love of Jesus a rich seam of lies
Resides within the idea of heavenly skin

Or a bag of cats roils just beneath us all
And in this sweet off-kilter boy is beautiful:
His stop-go body a rock to save stiller ones,
Says every twitching thing that crawls can sing.

Kora in Hell

If you take the pomegranate on your tongue
you shall know love’s soiled requirements
that keep us darkly down
even as the world withers above us
in fruitless abandon; never bite
the red seeds bitterly bursting their small loan
 onto the banks of your tongue
in the wan gardens underground
where no noon is.
To be hungry in love’s dead halls
is to be certain of return. To go pale
and drawn is to have hope to arise
and be sunlit after the dark season
in love’s grave. Do not feast
in the gloom on the blue shadows there
missing light. Keep thin and alone. Love holds
you to its hiding crest. It capes the fair
and puts a whiteness on the blush.
It is a crush this blue long night of being apart.
To be near the sun and on the ground is to be alive.
But love lights darker candles
in which a starker irresistance thrives.
And lively we are to Pluto who would touch upon
our vivacious glances. The darker longing
is to keep the slim sweet guest who never stays.
For time throws its best toys away.
Only Plutonic entitlement can steal a glance
and hold it there as on a vase.
Love is desire encased in death’s long art.
Never be devoured by longing or you will never get out.
The fruit you are is sweetest untaken but
will be taken down eventually in swoon season
which is the flooding crown when all the harvest
is a golden wave driven into the black kingdom
as a chariot rushing to avoid escape and love
is to bleakly look up once at sky then drown.

when lovers dance inside their box
the locksmith loosens all his locks

the keys with which the player plays
release the priest from what she prays

the fox outleaps the highest praise
so marriage dances on our gravest days

each ringed hand ringing as it peals
for love speaks parables of what it feels.



Young Husband

I am in the room of my marriage, when I had one.
Like a memory of a dead long gone ancestor,
Everything is polished with a certain conceit.
As if simply by passing, time became right.

I can see myself in error after error, as in
A dream that supposes it knows more deeply
Far into the summer heat of un-thought fire.
I want to save myself from the burning hubris

But won’t.  That is the past’s glowing blindness.
It can’t look ahead but proudly affirms its place
At the central magnitude where all things radiate.
I hate the mute heft of the choices

I didn’t make; and the summer stupor
Of the ones I did.  It didn’t amount to more.
I am the one who did the upsetting stuff
That knocked our vases to the floor.  Vows.

All those rows, and tears, now mummified
As if the collapse of our civilisation was allowed
By chance and not design.  History gets formed
Like lava takes the shape of what it flows around;

It’s messy but it hardens soon enough
Into what is sure and still and rough.  I was there.
And so I moved about in languid haste
As if the casual spillage of those days would end.

Todd Swift’s poems have been recorded in the British Poetry Archive.  He has recently curated a section of Tupelo Press' major new anthology of world anglophone poetry, sponsored by The Poetry Foundation in Chicago.  He is included in the Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry In English (2013).  He has published eight full poetry collections, many more pamphlets, and edited or co-edited numerous international anthologies. He is Director of Eyewear Publishing, and a University Teacher at Glasgow University. Photo credit Derek Adams.

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