August 28, 2017 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

Oscar Keys photo



Wally Swist



Regarding the Zombie Nativity Scene in Sycamore Township, Ohio



America is known for its kitsch and exhibitions

of bad taste, however this may be the epitome


of that dark ethos.  Who could mindfully,

even vaguely, conjure such a preposterous


and embarrassing public display other than that

of an underdeveloped mind and a puerile soul?


This owner of several haunted houses did,

and he is so misled that he wants to create a more


realistic display of the living unholy dead

for Christmas seasons to come.  What irritates


the most is that he actually revels in his misdeed,

disrespect, and inane folly: once you step in it


you might as well step in it again and smush

your foot in it just to make sure the odor will linger


with you long after it has dried and flaked off

your shoe.  He deplorably constitutes what may


be described as the current American Dream, which

signifies what is truly corrupt at the heart of many


individuals in this lost country that is so far gone

of not only being on course to go further astray


but which is also in the act of already vanishing

over a precipice with screams that the foulest-


smelling zombies can not only

hear but also which they take delight in listening to.





The Secret Cabin



Footprints lead to the secret cabin,

which indicates that once it did exist—


the secret cabin existed just like the footprints,

on the path of practicing the art of alchemy.


Poets may think they only need a trail map

to locate the cabin.  Any alchemist


worth his metal wouldn’t give a map

to a poet, since following a path


makes it impossible to find the secret cabin,

even if there are footprints leading up the trail.


An alchemist skilled in practicing his art

may be able to turn the lead of our lives into


the gold of our transformation.  That is

no secret.   A map is of no use for a poet.








People tell me it couldn’t have been, that

it was too dark to see, that it was


something other than what I saw—

a large dog, perhaps, a figment of my active


imagination, but standing in the autumn

dusk turning- to-evening at Fort Juniper,


amid the birch and pine woods,

I experienced an astonished immediacy.


Standing outside to just breathe in

the scent of fallen pine needles and leaf


litter was my meditation, but just as I was

about to go in for the night, the dark shape


barreling in toward me from a space

between the trees, caught me by surprise,


and instinct guided me to move around to

the other side of the car, to use it


as a shield so as to obstruct the progress

of the animal’s bulk charging toward me.


People ask me how could I have made it

into the cabin and closed the door in time.


Surely, it had foretold its visit, by its

knocking over the plastic garbage tub; and


leaving its slather over all of the saran

and clear plastic deli bags; by its leaving


its claw marks shoulder high on the door

of the tool shed after I had moved the tub


inside; with the neighbors providing me

a heads-up of their seeing a sow and her cub


crossing the road one morning into the grove.

After closing the cabin door that I heard


movement on the stone stoop, and a bristling

against the wood, so that I can feel it still as


a scimitar of fear rushing through me; and

with the sow’s fur rubbing, audibly, against


the cabin door, I, arguably, can add, if

only you had been there, you, too, would have


felt the safety of making it inside, of being ever

so grateful for your invaluable and lustrous life.







Wally Swist

Wally Swist’s books include Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love (Southern Illinois University Press, 2012); The Daodejing: A New Interpretation, with David Breeden and Steven Schroeder (Lamar University Press, 2015); Invocation (Lamar University Press, 2015), and The Windbreak Pine (Snapshot Press, 2016). Forthcoming books include: The View of the River (Kelsay Books, 2017), Candling the Eggs (Shanti Arts, LLC, 2017), and Singing for Nothing from Street to Street: Selected Nonfiction as Literary Memoir (The Operating System, 2018).

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