July 31, 2018 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

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Wally Swist




To Discernment



There will be some women

who will need

to step away from the rashness

of their vituperative sisters—

the ululations

of the harpies singing.


There will be some women

who will think they must

raise their voices

in opposition to the harshness

of those of their sisters—

the ululations

of the harpies singing.


There will be some women

who will realize

we all need to exercise

discernment instead

of just seeking vindication—

the ululations

of the harpies singing.


There will be some women

who already know

that a man who offers solace

in touching a woman

for the sake of assuaging

her sadness should not be

misinterpreted as sexual

misconduct, which would

then condemn the man who

sought only to comfort her—

evoking the ululations

of the harpies singing.


There will be some women

who will be able to

see clear in lifting the lamp

of wisdom, instead

of using the knife, as Psyche

did, when she looked

upon Cupid, at first seeing

his beauty, when the hot oil

from the lamp dripped

onto his face, awakening him—

setting the ululations

of the harpies singing.


There will be sapient women

able to remind their sisters

that it is the man in the loftiest

position in the country, whose

lies and intransigence cost

the world daily, who rules

with insufferable abandon,

that is, instead, the kind

of man who was meant to be

brought crashing down,

toppled in triumph,

like the statue of a dictator—

enlivening the ululations

of the harpies singing.






The Last House



My 12-year-old entrepreneurial self

was invested in delivering newspapers.

Walking was what I did. The owners

of the local musical theatre lived in

the next to last house on the route.


I delighted in peering over the hedges

to where an MG might have been

parked, or to see the slinky women

in sequined dresses breeze beneath

the orange taffeta lampshades


of party lights around the pool;

but beyond this property was

a plain white clapboard, with

a dog pen out back, whose occupant,

an elderly babushkaed woman,


might be seen going back and forth

from the caged pen, while

disappearing somewhere in between.

I was always relieved to see

the cage both closed and empty since


the mongrel shepherd was vicious.

Its bark rendered a hole in the air.

The final time I delivered a paper

to the last house on the route,

I noticed the cage door swung open,


and as I turned to walk away past

the canary yellow school buses

with Bluebird written on them in

black letters, parked in the depot

across the street, the dog made its


first pass, approaching me with

a ferocity, then circling again,

each time coming closer and closer.

With each pass, my legs leadened

in fear, until the ultimate pass, when


I could not find it within myself to

lift them at all, and the dog lunged

to bite me from behind, which

preternaturally incited my motor

functions into movement again,


that bite rousing me into the action

of my feet and legs carrying myself

back up the road, where I checked

the bite upon returning home, and

the black-and-blue teeth marks that


didn’t break the skin, due to the winter

coat I had worn on the route;

the shepherd’s growl, the menacing

sound of its teeth and snapping jaws

resounding in my mind.






Wally Swist

Wally Swist’s books include Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love (Southern Illinois University Press, 2012) and Candling the Eggs (Shanti Arts, LLC, 2017).  His forthcoming books are The Map of Eternity (Shanti Arts, LLC, 2018), Singing for Nothing: Selected Nonfiction as Literary Memoir (The Operating System, 2018), and On Beauty: Essays, Reviews, Fiction, and Plays (Adelaide Books. 2018).

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