Self Portrait at Forty Nine

Self Portrait at Forty Nine

Even in a small town there is a sound arriving
through the silence like the breath of the tiger

hidden in every house. Asking how can something hidden
arrive, finally, to the place it’s always been?

Nevertheless there is no standing on reason
for that is the mystery I hear in the silence

before the house wakes, when the train sound slides
away and the bells of competing churches hollow

out to the thinnest reminder of passages time turned
away from to linger on a single guitar chord,

from this open window, now long gone, hours
later, as I lay in bed and when the entire neighborhood

is between breaths I hear this breath, this sound
arriving to the place it’s always been. Earlier today

my neighbor dug up with his bare hands four solid
concrete steps leading from the curb to the space

between our houses. As if there was an invisible
house there all along, and in absence of anything

but a passage all we can do is wait to see
who owns it, or who will come visiting

in the silence, or if the sound arriving is simply
the door we cannot yet see, not yet open.


15 thoughts on “Self Portrait at Forty Nine

  1. noir-realism

    I almost felt that last couplet that went ‘or if the sound arriving is simply
    the door we cannot yet see, not yet open’ might have gone or ‘if the sound arriving is simply
    the door we cannot yet hear, not yet opening.

    The ear is our light in dark places is it not?

    Either way, great poem, Jeff. 🙂

    1. Jeff Schwaner Post author

      Hmm, something to consider, really. Thanks! Often when I collect the latest batch of poems into book form they undergo some revision–this may do the same. I will think on this a lot, since I’ll walk by that odd set of steps at least twice a day now…

      1. noir-realism


        The only reason I brought it up was your use of the word ‘sound’… seemed sight was a mixed metaphor for that, and ear or synesthesia were the more appropriate options in the pattern…. either way, a lovely poem!

  2. monochromejunkie

    I think this is the best thing written by you that I’ve ever read. It’s quiet but not at all thin. Really light and airy and I like the tiger reference. Also, I could easily see this being included in a Lit. book for school kids. Nice SP, by the way. You mentioned 49- don’t you mean 24 & 1/2? (Get it? :0) There’s only 1/2 of you…heheh. Nice work. I’m fond of 1/2 portraits like this and have taken a few myself. (Good tones.)

    1. Jeff Schwaner Post author

      Thanks. I’m going to replace the SP image with one of the actual stone steps in the next day or so, so even the 24.5 years of me currently on view will be replaced by concrete soon. Hmm, this reminds me of a line by a poet about living a half life or something like that; now I’ll have to look that one up…I’m glad you liked the poem! Much appreciated.

  3. Pingback: Bridgewater International Poetry Festival: Day One | Translations from the English

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