February 17, 2017 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

Joshua Roberts/Reuters



Wally Swist



Western Civilization and Wild Horses



What affects me the most

is that despite all of our electrical gadgets

we seem to be able to communicate less


with one another than ever.

The archetypes inform our psychologies.

Essentially this world is ruled by second


and third chakra energies: sex

and power. Most of us never

get to use fourth chakra energy, which is


the healing and spiritually

reaffirming power of the heart,

because we don’t practice it. We may talk


kindness and generosity

but most of us just give lip service

to those qualities. Carl Jung said that he


thought he might have

achieved the fourth chakra, and if that

is an indication of our success in accessing


the sacred energy of the fourth

chakra, most of us can’t even imagine

what that might be. The world is a dark place.


Bullying has been the active

method of intimidation. Although,

I can’t appraise the American voter for ever


being bright. Dimwitted

may be a better term. We should

remember who slaughtered the Plains Indians


with such candor and elemental

savagery of their own. Those

same regretful qualities are emblematic


of the fatuous posturing

and preposterous pronouncements

of Donald Trump, American Nazi. He is


one reason why it has

been possible for fascism

to become popular in America. Not that


the two are connected

directly, but, in a similar sickness of

spirit, the Advisory Board of the Bureau


of Land Management (BLM)

voted to euthanize all 45,000 burros

and wild horses present now in holding


pens to make room for mega

meat farms, and there is

nothing more annihilating than the mass


elimination of the primal

soul of America than

this, the nobility of its equine population


running free across

the western plains

in full abandon, relinquishing themselves


and the broad sweep

of their essence to no one, as they

gallop towards the endless prairie horizon.











It is represented in drawings and paintings

as dark because its essence is odious,

such an ominous rankling. It repels everything


and absorbs its own suffering. Its weight

overwhelms those who practice its black arts

but those who indulge themselves in such


aberrant devotions often find a visceral thrill

in sticking a pin through the heart

of the kewpie doll designed as the victim


of their rage. If the transgressions are so dire,

there is even a joy in hurling curse after curse

upon those who trespass against us not only in


life, but also far past the grave, in one life after

another. The sheer force of such an epithet

is shrill but beyond our normal range of hearing.


The Harpies’ voices raise themselves in a choir.

The Black Paintings of Francisco Goya come

to life. His Witches’ Sabbath or Aquelarre


animated with their subjects filling the sky

on brooms. Like Goya, we paint our canvases

with the palette of darkness from our accrued


spleen from those who have injured us,

and we execute the viscera, twisting and turning

in on itself like a basin of silverfish


or a tub of snakes, onto the plaster

of our innermost rooms, and when these are

accomplished, they are never written about,


neither are they spoken of, or referenced,

or even exhibited—anywhere.

However, when our intentions are discovered,


like a wry smile discerned

in the set of the jaw bones of the skull of

our corpse, those who discover them can see


that the paintings can be salvaged, despite

the transference of their crumbling

onto canvas, the presentation of wrath


perpetuating itself, well past

the length of our own lives, preserved beyond

what lies desiccated after our deaths.








Stinging Nettles



The border of the opening

out of the grove of staghorn sumac

and into the field of milkweed


made me cautious at once,

an intuition precipitating a memory

of what this plant’s trichomes,


or the stinging hairs, on its leaves

and stems do, acting as a hypodermic,

injecting histamine into animals


and humans who brush them

as they walk by. How harmless

these woody stems and serrated


leaves appear upon approach, until

looking more closely one can

clearly see their eponymous nettles


as they bristle the edge of the trail,

not unlike the whole copse of them

that we saw that early summer dusk


after getting quite lost on our hike

through Ice Glen in Stockbridge,

where we saw a flock of perching


cedar waxwings passing

honeysuckle berries to each other.

Our having become so wayward


that with thunderheads bulking up

above us in the sky, we decided to

swim across a narrow course


of the Housatonic River, before we

saw a light in a farmhouse, which

lead to Route 7. However, our last


mythical challenge was the thick

patch of nettles which separated us

and what was still a way to walk


back to the car, as I beat a path

through the vegetation, laying

whole swaths of it aside with my


walking stick so you could pass

behind me untouched by the prickly

hairs of the plant, which caused


paresthesia in both my thighs and

yours, since we were wearing shorts,

as how much of the nettles I was


able to lay back there were stray

stalks that bounced right back up,

nicking our skin. Our legs tingled


as if they had been hot wired with

an animation of pins and needles,

mine more than yours, since I bore


the brunt of the forage through

the thicket of it all, still hearing

the shush of my sweeping aside such


a tangle of stinging green, only for

strands of it to twist free, to spring back,

scraping themselves across and over


our legs, providing us with the burn

of discomfort, invisibly searing

that within us, as an indelible memory.













Wally Swist

Wally Swist’s books include Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love (Southern Illinois University Press, 2012), Invocation (Lamar University Literary Press, 2015), and The View of the River (Kelsay Books/White Violet Press, 2017). His recent poems have appeared in Appalachia, Miramar, Mudfish, Rattle, Still Point Arts Quarterly, and upstreet. He is Guest Editor of the summer 2017 issue of Blue Lyra Review.


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