R L Swihart


Location: the parking lot exit near 4th and Park

Three pachyderms:

With a determined shuffle  the guy on my left
keeps his distance

The guy on my right chugs along on the sidewalk
and adjusts his mask

I tug at my shirt sleeve (I’m still nursing a solar 
snakebite), tip my Robin Ruth, and shudder
slightly, as though lightning has
just struck


That night I dreamt I belonged to another herd. On an invite 
I went to a COVID party. I mainly mimicked the phrases
I got from the playbook I picked up at the door.
“What’s a mask?” “Am I close enough?”
“You think I’m a winner?”

The strawberry blonde in the traffic-jammed living room
was a lot more creative. She was a bit tipsy and nearly
gave me an ear wash: “If I were any closer, I’d
have to charge you for a lap dance”


The old diviners can only leave their numbers
(this then that and always an answer)
for the better part of a day


Z gets there early and is witness to the deer
near the entrance: a peripheral blur
and then a certainty


B stops by a field (already gold for the season)
that once held his wedding


Phones that deliciously don’t work. Small bridges
that barely remember water. A sign
that promises Eagle Rock


Along the way, they work hard at conjuring up names
and places. Rehearse the flora and fauna
in the gaps


Metaphor: something is always something else.
Are we any closer?


Especially when travelling, I stand on my side
of the counter and point: this or that


About the only thing I remember from the undergrad
elective on Mythology: Big-breasted Mother


I skimmed a lot in those days (after all I was an Engineering
major), so I didn’t weep with Gilgamesh over the death
of Enkidu till much later


In grad school: Prof S: “This is my friend and colleague, G.
Of course, we took different paths, so we have different
perspectives. He worked for the church, I became
an academic”


I wrote a paper on Levi Strauss and Structuralism.
What did I know?

She’s not a She but she’s been groaning
from the start


Let’s say we someday colonize Mars. Or even
the Moon

Has she given birth?


Every morning I roll out of bed, slip into my dinosaur suit (A-7L)
and start taking my daily allotment of small steps. At some
point I plant my flag (its only color is blue). My words
are not even mine. They confuse others as well
as myself

In the Vale of Daghestan, Dreaming of a Ball

Because all his sibs had pitched in to reverse the reverse mortgage, Z went 
to Michigan for three months to stay in the family home on a road 
where all the neighbors, dreaming of another landscape, 
were dumping or scraping tons of dirt


Because Z belonged to another time and place, had been more happy than sad 
in marriage for thirty years, and had an aversion to dancing (not to mention 
he only knew Lermontov via Chekhov ), he piled three blankets on 
around midnight (seems summer had ended abruptly), 
skipped his pills, and took the "ball" 
in another direction


Instead of a solo blast in the bottom of the 7th (pony league), it's a grand slam 
and the Comets defeat the Angels for the City Championship


J left with C and all I will "nutshell" here is that she answered my question -- 
What's the difference between blueberry buckle and blueberry cobbler -- 
and couldn't hold back her excitement about becoming a new nana

C did the driving as far as Michigan City, then switched with J at the usual Micky D's. 
There's no nutshell for him because he's family. Deep well. But I will say that 
he remembered when we mistakenly torched the field behind Pastor Stan's 
(we were just kids), he just forgot the location


Before C and J left I helped them load some wood from the barn. They have 
a fire pit behind their house and next to the pond

Then I walked in a gentle summer rain that became less than gentle by the time 
I got to the intersection where Cranmere turns into Grange. I got pretty wet

On the way back I squeezed lots of wet green into this poem. A ball cap 
that had a dripping bill. And two roadkills (Rocky Raccoons) 
with shit-eating grins

R L Swihart was born in Michigan but now resides in Long Beach CA. His work has sparsely dotted both the Net and hardcopy literary journals (e.g., Cordite, Pif Magazine, Denver Quarterly, Quadrant Magazine, Poetry South, Otoliths). His third book of poetry was released July 2020: Woodhenge and, after some while of being out of print, his first book, The Last Man, has been rereleased.
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