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.

The plague spring

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The plague spring

1.
Spring blooms with empty streets.
Chain-links sprout and spread overnight

and flower with heavy locks on
the fences around basketball courts.

A few people drift by the closed library
like pollen, moved by invisible laws.

The sun buckles and stalls.
It’s the spring of closed doors.

2.
We wait for something unexpected
that would signal the expected’s return.

Down the street a car sneezes and drives
off like it’s allergic to us.The pileated

woodpecker swoops in long arcs
from leafless tree to leafless tree

like he is sewing up a wound. When
his red crest twitches as he tightens

the thread, will there be pain?

3.
There’s a sound everywhere this sunny day,

a faucet in the world being turned off. We huddle
in the quiet, afraid of being alone.

The quiet of the afraid is worse than the quiet
of the dead, who are not around to hear it.

Before peonies, late March 2020

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Before peonies, late March 2020

One day you walk out your door, unhappy.
Your eyes roll with anger, looking anywhere

for relief, but find none. The agitation dislodges
a lash which falls, unmissed like a happy moment

not worth your time, to the earth by the walkway.
A season passes. The last week of March

you walk out your door, unhappy, head down,
your unhappiness fortunately angled so you see them.

They rise like something going backwards in time.
Like how memories grow. Curious, inevitable.

Snakes rolled over by countless tires, crumpled
yet rising to unheard music, enchanted maybe.

Each morning they elongate, uncrinkle, dance
slowly toward the sun. The crumpled snakeheads

fill with — what? — the moment you discarded
and the countless moments it created in turn,

filling like a reverse venom, crowding out the poison
tooth of regret, bursting open, these are all the

effects of your happiness, countless effects of being,
weightless and regal, dancing in the slightest breeze

or is that you dancing, crushed snake of a soul,
forgiving the wheel and opening to the sun?

Sheltering at home

 

Sheltering at home

The days of the week want to help me
But their name tags have faded

The house sighs for us so we can lie
Still enough to pretend we’re dreaming

Up on the hill the school closes its mouth
For spring and birds in the backyard

Sound the same though I seem to finally
Know what they’re saying. We’ll survive

Will you will you

Middle Winter [8] — Poetics

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Middle Winter [8] — Poetics

Sometimes I stay away from my words
so I do not write the poem I should

not write  sometimes I call to my words
to make that very poem without me

*

Sometimes I build a poem so
carefully from the foundation up

over time, like a house. Carefully
but not like you carefully construct a

statement. That poem so carefully
built is no more a statement than

a house is. You can live in a house
or a poem but not in a statement

which is a small thin thing that is
laid on a table in a house and holds

nothing up nor lets nothing down.
Sometimes a poem is a raindrop

on a piece of paper on which
a statement is written, on a table

close to an open window on
a mild midwinter day.

*

The poem is a rock thrown from the moon.

Or the moonflower that furls into a fist at the
sun every morning.

Middle Winter [7]

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Middle Winter [7]

7.
Midwinter flows like a week of Thursdays.
On the real Thursday there’s an imposter

air about the hours. From the moment I wake
and walk the dogs outside, the morning rain

sounds dry, like pieces of paper running away.
On the seventh day, on the real Thursday

the thunder god will appear as I watch
the dogs piss on the earth, astride a leaf

in his tiny chariot of goats swept downstreet
by the runoff, and slam his hammer against

the midrib of the maple vessel almost
as if he didn’t know controlling the weather

doesn’t mean controlling the season.

Middle Winter [6]

fortuneteller (2)

Middle Winter [6]

6.
I raid old conversations like a graverobber.
I dig, near the mausoleum, by the stone

with no name. I dig, the clouds snap
like sheets on a line in the February wind

that hip-deep into the ground is only a whisper.
I have thrown the shovel up onto the uncut gray grass,

which covers it in the wind like an old man’s hair.
I use smaller tools, like an archaeologist or someone

looking for the bones of a creature nobody else
will believe in until they see it. The edge of a letter

appears.Then words: “Better return home.” There’s
more underneath but it’s getting dark here in my past,

there’s a fox watching me from a few graves away
and a cardinal in the elm, and a feeling that I have

missed something, the feeling is so strong that it
stands next to me, tapping me on the shoulder,

gesturing and pointing but it’s so dark I lose sight
of it and hear the the dry hum of tires on the access

road, a car door opening and the squawk of a radio.
Whoever guards this place is drawing near and it’s not me.

Middle Winter [5]

 

Middle Winter [5]

5.

The mile I ran tonight is I noticed
longer than the last time I ran it    is that

how these years work is it actually longer
between one discernible point and another while

on the whole years contract into spasms or stiff
reflections    but beneath the morning rime of

waking a green dream is chanting
the names of the sun