the poetry that matters

John Swain

John Swain lives in Louisville, Kentucky, USA. His work is forthcoming or has appeared in Shoots and Vines, Gloom Cupboard, Rust and Moth, Ink Sweat & Tears, Counterexample Poetics, and others.

The Drowning Room

Vermilion silk your choir
harkens a peregrine falcon
and shallows
over the drowning room
as morning light unsettles.
I dreamt fragmented
and you said you missed me
and you opened your robe
then we kissed,
memory dissolves like smoke.
The river fills my windows
purple clear and quiet
like relief for this waking.
The sun melts behind clouds
like sponges of opium.



I heard you gathering skirt pockets of lavender
like a love poem,
the wind inscribed itself in adoration of your red linen hems.
Stems branch and flower underground like an artery
coloring the transparent skin of the sweeping meadow in purple.
We paint each other's eyelids with a tincture
and deeply the inhale the fragrance the alembic sun distills.
A sky opens breathing between skies like a blue morning glory.
I am not sleeping when I listen to this world pierce its aurelia
and scatter like black swallowtails from your palms.
Twilight soothes the silhouettes of trees at forest's edge
while the offering of your own mouth tastes like almond.


Off Harmon's Ferry

The field's arms reclaim the abandoned thresher
where bees feed on the nectar of endless clover
as graces of deer bound through wheat toward the stream.
A dead opossum bared its skeleton for the cloud of flies,
turtles muddied the ruts in the gravel after the storm
as landowners leave the snapped timber to rot like a body.
Cattle rush to the poison flesh of wild cherry trees.
A neighbor cut lavender for us to repel biting insects
though the bramble windswept hills today are impassable,
the wildflowers thrive from the kindness of thorn.
Trees grow downward in the spectral reflection of the lake,
a fallen leaf scared the heron to flight, we rested in its emblem
as the sun washed over us between robe lines of blue rain.


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