Author Archives: Jeff Schwaner

About Jeff Schwaner

Poet: three published books of verse and two novels. Studied poetry at Cornell University, where I was awarded the Dorothy Sugarman Poetry Prize and George Harmon Coxe Award for Contributions to Creative Writing. Entrepreneur: Co-founder in 2000 of Booksurge, an author-initiated self publishing and Print On Demand (POD) site purchased by Amazon in 2005. Working guy: manager at LexisNexis. Family man: husband and father of three. New England native and current Virginia resident. Big fan of Blue Ridge mountains and hills and trees in general.

First hour of Good Friday

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First hour of Good Friday

Stained glass star, muted by night.
The magic has been done and waits

In a simple ceramic container,
In a tall cloaked pitcher alongside

A white, unevenly melting candle as
Wide as my palm in the dark church.

The structure is still settling, plank
By plank, in every pew or overhanging

Arch, like we’re inside the ribs of a beast
Deep underwater. Under pressure that

Would kill us if we faced it alone.
Only us and the waiting god

Who’s asked us to stay awake. To sit awake
While time wears the faces off all witness.

Dimmed lights crouch into the ceiling,
Emitting the hum of unreachable space.

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Guest from the past, ghost from the future

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Guest from the past, ghost from the future

Here inside my body is a table for all time.
From some place in the future my ghost arrives,

Disoriented, not remembering how or when
I died but carrying a newspaper that sat

On the grass throughout the night I expired,
Saturated with dew or rain, does it matter,

And now all the words are gathered so close
from both sides of all pages, the odd and the even,

they form a single unreadable sentence.
There are no chairs around the table because

Ghosts don’t need chairs and the guest
From the past is not welcome anyway. He will be here

Any moment, even though I lied about when
Things would start, that’s how early he always is,

The past is never late. I invite him hoping my ghost
Will scare him, make him understand his end

Is inevitable. But of course he can’t change.
I end up scaring myself, my coffee goes cold.

By the time the news is dry it’s not worth reading.
This is the best table I could imagine, too, all wood,

Like the big table where Melville wrote Moby Dick
In the middle of the room on the second floor

Of a landlocked house with a view of Mt Greylock.
I can hear the turtle in the alarm flexing his muscle

And the morning air rushing in. Everything
Will be the same next time I visit, except me.

The storm that was a pause between things

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The storm that was a pause between things

Unmoving white sky, after two hours of sleep.
Like a view for the morning after you die:

No color, no sound. Only the rhythm of dogs
Breathing at the foot of the bed, those animals

To whom death, like life, is just passing weather.
The snow has fallen or is yet to fall but is not falling.

Two ages like thick glass tectonic plates
Clasped me as they passed against each other.

One an age in which I existed, the other
Where I was absent. I could not see

the difference. So little would change,
So little that had to happen for the morning

To come no matter what. That is when
The dogs left me. We are not alone in death

But we are alone in despair. Numbness coming
In from the arms and legs toward the heart.

The brain a battering ram turned inwards.
Then I slept. So many things we can’t control

That happen anyway. The memory of deer
in the backyard the dawn before. The deer

Themselves. The paths that brought them
To nibble at a birdfeeder the day before a storm.

Snow moon

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Snow moon

Not the owl whose short questions are strung
On this line of dark hours like rosary beads.

Not the cloud’s cold eyelid closing over
The near-empty parking lot in each of our minds.

What drove you there and what were you trying
To buy on such a night when the moon arcs away

Like the last snowball you threw at a friend
You outgrew without knowing? They both faded,

They both landed somewhere beyond sight.
Not the short-tempered ladder to memory.

The night’s too wide to haunt. But for a few
Moments, it opened its eye to look at you

And swept across your life without noticing:
Who you missed, who you hit, how cold

Your hands were when it took shape.
And an idea drifted down un-owned

And clung to you like frost, an owl flown,
A string of prayers creased by doubt.

February still life

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February still life

Rain. Which coastal town was I dreaming
last night we’d moved to where the rain

comes with a bookmark of the ocean
and the snow apologizes when it alights on dunes

with the sound of regret? The color of change
on change. Wrapping my head around how one

impermanence devours another
is like leaning on a dune fence:

its weakness is what makes it impossible
To climb or cross. Its effect is staying

In place in a place where no lines hold.
The horizon balances no books. Flat pasts

slide away, pages of undertow. Words too
late to change the page fall as I’m reading it. Rain.

End of January

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End of January

No invitations left for it.
I am all outside now

Beyond any framework for this god of doors
Its first face is four years long

I am tired of looking through its road-salt eyes
The month’s mouth is a boy’s knee

Punctured by a splayed root
Its voice is a wrist shattered like ice

Its ears a bird caught in a basement
On the coldest night of the year

Its other face is a choice
Nobody saw coming

Longer days

Longer days

The winter rain is unhappy drifting against the window
It cannot come in it is too light to knock or ask

Beyond a whisper in the puddles which the mud steals
As its own only long enough for the steps to take it up

So we know whether the steps are coming here
Or to a there in a different direction going away in the silent rain

The snow though voiceless collects its silence upward
To visibility the shape of a voice without argument

This is the source of the grudge the steps carry away
This is why we are frightened as the steps come

From nowhere on a quiet morning when nothing
Should be arriving but the day a few minutes earlier

But here they come after the quiet winter rain
In the minutes surprised at how new the world is

seconds still falling like rain too soft
to cry out after slipping on a dream

Of ice on the heel of waking on these longer days