December 27, 2015 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION


Wally Swist




The Uncivilized Species Itself


            for Allan Burns



It is a phrase worthy of mention, connotation,

and devotion to memory. Seems as if it is

 a term that could have been used

by E. O. Wilson, or someone of his ilk, and

it is appropriate that it is yours. The species

is certainly uncivilized, and to such a degree

that stupefies the imagination and roils the soul.

It is just in listening to Ted Cruz

and Donald Trump, they amount to such tall

mountains of the uncivilized species itself

that it is staggering, and it takes the breath

away from anyone on the path, the true path,

and not the faux seeker of Jesus, or an admirer

of the Koch Brothers. The murder that

transpired during the Civil War, when troops

were set in motion in lines toward the volleys

of grape and shot, is not any less disturbing

as the trenchant rhetoric and virtuosic vitriol

that effuses from the gaping mouths

of the representatives of the wealthy,

or the wealthy themselves, in this wayward

country. Both spiritually and

secularly-speaking: they are an abomination.








The Olive Trees



For those Israelis who live in
the settlements of Bani Kadim

and Asfar, to have vandalized
only a few olive trees may have

sufficiently made a point about
Palestinian teenagers throwing

rocks at Israeli soldiers,
despite being sprayed with rubber

bullets, and grenades
that contain a lachrymatory agent,

euphemistically known as tear gas.
To have destroyed several dozen

olives trees would certainly
have indicated a vindictiveness

regarding rockets fired
into Israeli cities and settlements,

warning Hamas that atonement
of a more serious nature might

transpire if those living
on the West Bank refused to cease

their incendiary and destructive
actions against Israel.

To cut down and to seize some
800 Palestinian-owned olive trees

near the town of Shuyukh, east
of Hebron, is an act of entitlement

beyond imagination, a perpetrated
hate crime, an injudicious atonement,

an imprudent prank pulled off
by a wildly adolescent nationalism

and in a misplaced notion of justice.
Imagine what it might be like

to just cut down one olive tree,
never mind 800—

an act of vengeance that brands
its own imprimatur onto the soul

of those wielding hatchets
and saws, tattooing the word

monstrous onto those who sought
such thoughtless and punitive

damage to the livelihood
and sustenance emblematic of

the amour propre of a people.
To break a branch of a single tree

would have been actively
symbolic, would have offered

a new alchemical beginning,
would have been an oblation

for peace, handed over to those
who nurtured those trees

and farmed that land, as alms
as fragrant as blossoms,

which could have been
watered to bear

the piquant and nourishing
crop of the fruit of peace.









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.


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