March 24, 2016 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION


Wally Swist






When a peaceful protest of the slaughter

of goats in India becomes violent when


local men riot and begin stoning women

protesters, leaving one woman in critical


condition, it is abhorrent. Whatever

the reason there would be any rationale


for endorsing the denigration of women

not only injures those subscribing to that


but blinds those who chose to

throw stones and wounds their own inner


feminine. Denouncing women

and becoming so thoroughly engaged in


reviling them, is unacceptable

in whatever form, and only offers nettles


instead of salve to assuage the sting.

A solution to the issue could be


engendering a pedagogy in preventing

such a crime. The stoning of women


is unconditionally unacceptable,

and anyone who partakes in such an act,


among the rubble, does violence to

themselves, without their even knowing


they are doing so. If only they knew that

I art thou, they could possibly begin


to comprehend that it is

they themselves who are about to be


bludgeoned by the stones

in their hands, and that nothing except


atonement can absolve the rage

in their eyes, the blood beginning to


streak their own

faces, just as they take aim and throw.









Grand Wizard



People lined the curb

along the length of Flagler Street—


Memorial Day, Miami, 1958,

I recall my mother holding my hand,


when I was five. The white summer

dress she made herself only made


more fashionable with the blue cloth

belt around her waist, and me dressed


in beige shorts, a green polo, sandals—

both of us delighting in the parade,


the colorful display of the marchers,

the onlookers. Until the wedge


of the white cloaked riders, with

veils and pointed hats, on horseback,


approached where we stood

on the side of the road; their energy


that of an imminent impenetrable

darkness drawing you into its center,


magnetically; and for everyone

to see, its Grand Wizard, his veil


lifted, hard obdurate eyes gazing

into the crowd along the street named


after the Standard Oil magnate and

railroad tycoon who died accidentally


in a fall down the marbled stairs of his

home at Whitehall. My boy’s soul


intuited evil incarnate and rebelled

against it instantly, the sheer malice


and foul malevolence in the man’s

visage, smoldering beneath the zany


hoodlum costume, precipitating

my protest beside my mother, openly


crying out that I didn’t like that man,

the one on horseback riding past us,


the man meeting my face with his cold

eyes, the one my mother began pulling


me away from and covering my mouth,

beginning to make her way through


the crowd by the curb with me

in tow, her stopping eventually to


whisper loudly to me that I couldn’t

say such things out loud to the man


on the horse, that he could do

things to us that we would not want


done, that he and his men were

the ones who burned crosses on front


lawns, that these horseback riders

were known as the Ku Klux Klan.










A Dream of Lions



Before I awoke this morning,

I dreamed of lions in a field

that I was either departing


from or that I might have been

entering. The field being

bordered by a an evergreen


forest, and the lions slowly

moving forward downhill

into the pasture, stopping


occasionally, then roaming

further, again. To my surprise

I had no fear of the lions,


although I respected their

power, their windy manes,

the fierce beauty even in


the wrinkles of their faces,

some of them rearing

their heads back before


they vocalized their MGM

growls; and I distinctly

remember I didn’t want to


leave them, as the colors

in the dream began to fade

and disappear, the tan of


their tawny bodies, the field

in all of its verdant green,

blurring against the darker


green of the forest, whose

scent I could still inhale,

upon awaking, as I pulled


myself away from the lions

and their strength, knowing

that the last dream I had


which possessed a similar

visceral dominion was

my dream, as a boy, when


tigers were tearing the body

of my mother apart, only

six months before she died,


but this time nearly fifty years

later, the lions were loudly

roaring as they roamed


the meadow, however,

most of the time they were

still and were just as silent.











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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