Poetry

saome-rain-drops-in-the-morning_w725_h544

 

By

Wally Swist

 

Imminence

 

in memory of Jerzy Kosinksi

 

 

It had rained or it was about to rain,

as you stood in the threshold of the doorway

of the bookstore, a small entourage

 

surrounding you.  I remember a woman taller

than you, a fur wrap around her shoulders;

and others, a man in a trench coat with

 

salt and pepper hair.  You looked powerful

but tentative, at once.  I recognized

the darkness in your face from the pages

 

of The Painted Bird, which I had devoured,

aghast by the tale of your survival; then

read again, exhilarated as I might have

 

taken the same roller coaster ride,

by it having frightened me even more than

it did the first time, just for the sake of

 

the thrill of being alive.  You looked up at

us on the raised platform of the front desk

as you might be squinting into a light

 

that was brighter than it is comfortable

to see into, and I asked you

questions about your writing, how you

 

were, if I could help you find anything,

could you please come on in;

and what I saw there in your visage were

 

the atrocities that the war tattooed onto you,

although you did escape the humiliation

of the Nazis branding numbers on one

 

of your wrists.  The child in you never fully

having escaped hanging from a ceiling lamp,

or a chandelier, while a German Sheppard

 

placed in the room with you, leapt and

snapped at whatever appendage hung low

enough when you tired; and the child

 

you were did not escape the shadows that

accompanied your fierce sense of freedom

while running through the forest because

 

all the shadows kept pace with you—

as fast as you could run, you could not outrun

the shadows and the accrued darkness

 

of what had occurred to you.  Still, I was

shocked when I read, some years later, that

you had taken your own life, that it was

 

impossible for you to have outdistanced

the war and your memories of it,

that it haunted you, that it was imminent

 

in the gravity of the creases of the wrinkles

in your face that reminded me

it had stormed or it was about to storm.

 

 

 

 

 

photo

Wally Swist

Wally Swist’s books include Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love (Southern Illinois University Press, 2012) and a new interpretation of The Daodejing of Laozi, with David Breeden and Steven Schroeder (Lamar University Press, 2015). Some of his new poems appear in Commonweal, North American Review, andRattle. Garrison Keillor recently read his poem “Radiance” on the daily radio program The Writer’s Almanac.

One thought on “Poetry

  1. Another superb poem by Wally, whom one expects to be writing about his close observations of nature. Here he turns to close observation of a man whose traumas reveal themselves in his bearing. A constant writer, Wally is clearly a poet who pays attention.

Leave a Reply