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.

Running behind

IMG_8982

Running behind

Summer’s running behind feels a bit mean
To a person already running behind,

A forced vertigo of sorts I can’t calibrate
My own behind-ness to: here in the early

Autumn of my life I’m still sweating
A summer boy’s things and the blurring

Faces of those I run by on the street
Of my life. I’m worried about what I’m

Missing by not standing still. By never
Getting up to speed. Time runs ahead,

The orange soles of her sneakers glistening
Over night’s damp suburban grass.

One wet evening, in the light of a white-faced lawn
Jockey, she’ll be waiting, stretching her legs

For a last run with me.

The wind let me live

IMG_8876

The wind let me live

The wind let me live
By not arriving. The ten thousand

wheels of the highway had stopped
And we sat on its back, still

As food in cans. And the dark
Grew quiet as we killed

Our engines to save fuel.
Mere hours away

The sirens set
Apart each moment in its stillness:

Duration’s blue and red lights.
They bounced off the neighbors’ houses

And into the distance, arriving
At some place where there was

No distance, and the aftermath
Of that. Then the windless rain

Like a chorus that is the song
Of the end of shape. Where will

I be when the one drop of rain
That is my life, descending with the rest,

Bursts against the earth, no longer
The same but exactly the same,

As many molecules as the stars
in a gathering puddle whose surface

riddled by wind reflects the sole
Of a child’s new sneakers

Summer’s last thunderstorm

IMG_8863

Summer’s last thunderstorm

Nineteenth of September, nearly supper.
First the trees start whispering questions.

Leaves swerve to ground like practice seasons.
Is nothing too green for grief, the trees ask.

The answer scrapes the top of the sky.
Bulldozer uprooting forever for the new estates.

Is it over? Almost. It’s almost over.
Then rain, soft, like em-dashes

Between invisible words, unspoken charters.
Whatever they are building up there

Has been redacted already in the unseen
Document of the future, what’s left

Of our uncomposed lives. Word on the tip
Of the tongue in a mouth that closes.

Like clouds closing on a patch of blue.
The thunder has forgotten its voice

Is summer’s, and throttles like a biker
Down a darkening road.

Altar of earth

IMG_8893

Altar of earth

Altar of earth, altar of the palm.
Rite of the nimble elbow–

God resides in the forearm,
Waiting like an owl.

In the lucid gloaming,
In the throttled air of hotels.

In the river of the quiet smile,
Which flows on, on in my

Mind. Like an actual river–
Always where I need to find it,

Never the same substance,
Always the same way.

Like shadows

IMG_8478

Like shadows

The shadows ring with noise.
It’s time’s breath, which grows

Louder even as it makes other
Sounds, like my mother’s voice,

Fade into hushing light. No, nothing
Fades. Things are observed

Like shadows. Just as this
Poem is not about fading

But uses ‘fade’ four times,
So our lives use the words

Of things we’re not about
To frame what’s

Four times denied,
Four times forgiven, four times

Larger than what appears real,
Like shadows on a late afternoon

Just past rain, where loneliness puddles
And is stepped over by those on their way.

Stillness at a bar in the middle of a busy hotel lobby

VTovallounge.jpg

Stillness at a bar in the middle of a busy hotel lobby

Belief in one God is still heavy. –Amichai
Faith’s long half life sits in the mind like ice in a drink
At this bar. Slowly diminishing and diluting

What it was meant to enhance. The sun glares
Through a glass of wine like it is upset about wine

In particular. Was God ever happy with wine?
There are few things that lay on a marble bar-top worse

Than dust though the guy from Pennsylvania is
Coming close, leaning into his third whiskey.

Ages of dying and thoughts about dying
Have led to this unpolished drinker,

His eyes marbled with the present.

My shadow

IMG_8724

My shadow

I walk out into the world and follow my shadow.
My shadow anticipates my every move.

It walks onto private property with impunity,
Patting the dog on the head.

My shadow peeks into open windows
And is sliced like bread by vertical blinds.

My shadow breaks into parked cars, diving through
Windows and emerging uninjured, hands empty.

My shadow enters the shadow of a house
And disappears and comes out a shadow wall

Where there is no door.
My shadow never talks about what it saw in there.

My shadow heads to the cemetery in the morning
While the light is low and its mind is long.

My shadow favors loblolly pines, because even
As tall old trees they are always learning to dance.

My shadow is clumsy too, it trips over gravestones
And slides down the grassy slope as if

Towards death. As if death were a game
That had an end. Or a goal. I turn around

And walk up the hill, dragging my shadow
Over the wet grass and home. It is at these times

My shadow wishes the clouds would come closer.