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 Drift’ is now available.

My first book since 2018’s Wind Intervals is now available.

Order a signed copy below!

A few of these poems have appeared in recent issues of Beloit Poetry Journal and New Letters. I’m grateful to the editors for their interest in my work.

The $15.00 price for a signed copy includes shipping. Order here. (You can also order an unsigned copy from Amazon here.)

Title page.
Dedication page and half-title.
Front cover.
Cover art by Mary Schwaner.

Mirror, Cape Cod

In the house my parents built. These mirrors have seen my face,
my naked body, for longer than any living thing: at twelve, sunburned

And skinny and flush with summer friendships from the beach;
at twenty-three, back from graduate school with the young writer

who’d become my wife, tired after walking ten miles from Hyannis
to Dennis to surprise my parents with a visit from Boston.

And now at fifty-six. Watching our three teenagers watch the sun
Set from the Cape’s highest point, stone tower a stone’s throw

From this house. O age inexorable and gentle has given me
A face weathered with seasons of gratitude. In this bathroom mirror is

An image of each time I’ve stood before it, in the same place,
Dripping wet, a little transparent, my selves seeing uneasily through each other’s

particular reflections. It took every second to get us all here.
No wonder the image wavers.

Outside and a mile away through scrub oak and sand the bay
glints with day’s embers, the slow ticking away of light

dropping through the horizon’s grate and the oncoming
Rolling rememberlessness of night, the countless

Reflections no one will see

Sesuit Harbor song

We never went to your father’s river
though far north of here we stood

on a jetty at the end of a normal day
while my mother took pictures of the sky.

Heartbreak is heartbreak at any age:
always too big to fit into a single person.

Pick any shell off this Cape Cod beach
and listen: the sound goes on forever although

every shell’s message is short: “I’m alive
and well” though it always arrives a lifetime

too late or should we assume the life is ours?
Sunset was so big, like a normal day’s sunset

with a bonus sunset for tourists, my mother
had to take another picture and another.

Still the sky wouldn’t fit. And in every photo
you and I stood among strangers like every

group that gathers by happenstance along water
and each held a shell and my mother took

their picture and wrote their names in a notebook
I found years later far from her photographs

and she told them how I laughed so heartily
as an infant people would interrupt my naps

just to watch me wake up and laugh and it
found its way into their heads so that even when

it left a memory had formed around it like a shell
and it was their own laughter saying I’m alive

and well and I wish you all well without your names
in my mother’s pictures with my father at her side

Near the end of a dark year

In the stressed syllable of the last month
sometimes I wake in the middle of the night

in the unstressed syllable of the third hour
and feel my heart moving around inside me

as if it is trying to escape when I am
not looking but where would it go?

It’s too early for the scrabble of starling
in the gutter above the open window

The cold air comes in, musical notes
the size of pillows. Like I haven’t

figured out how to dream yet
a window trying to be a wall

What magic changed glass into night?
Then today as the moon rose just after

sunset I found myself in a clearing
mind, thoughts scattered into the thicket beyond.

My heart circles slowly at the edge of the light.
I trust the trees like it trusts the trees.

Like a large cat it shrugs its shoulders
as it walks, like it’s forgetting to take

responsibility for anything like with each step
it’s a step further from what it’s done

Its fur glows at the edge of the circle of light
maybe waiting for me to turn my head

or for another like it to show up at the edge
then from the outside it will come for me

Imagining deadlines

The moon crawls over my windshield, a bored insect.
Reflection of a reflection of light

on the grim and circling stone.
The world does not share my sense of time:

In a vehicle parked off the road, going nowhere
I sense no motion at all in this luminous bug

on the curved glass. Doesn’t it know
I don’t have all night to be moved?

The last warm day of the year

The last warm day of the year

The October sun rests on a loblolly pine.
Late afternoon, slight breeze. River

of leaves sliding along the street side.
I am too old, says the sun, for this: I get

up later every day and I’m tired earlier.
The pine squints at the sun’s single ring

of fire: Try having as many rings as I do
says the pine. Try living in full seasons

instead of skating above it all. Try,
just once, standing still.

Standing in the sun by the church

Where the light falls may fail
something else along its edge

close enough to see it
but not be in it or of it

Sun streams through stained
glass but not to the people inside

under the shadows each of
their individual Gods

My bench in the shade got cold
but all I had to do was walk

a few steps past the walnut tree’s
highest eminence now just

shifting sparkle and shadow
at my feet — even on the ground

I’m higher than spires
my limbs bound to no rooted

trunk of belief — I know
I’ll float freely one day

but I’ll fall like we all fall
and the landing I have seen

against living’s gravity
is almost weightless

By this river

By this river

My river starts as a creek that idles like a train loading up kids at a park
then slides underground, quickening beneath the destroyed black neighborhood

beneath the cheap hotel and its parking lot that was supposed to be a mall
and on downhill past City Hall where it bursts into the open thirty feet below

the police station parking garage then sidles back under the concrete
and into the dark again beneath a parking lot called The Wharf though

it hid the only waterway in the valley so sometimes when I want
to touch the current of my life I feel a parking space stripe that

hand-wide line white or yellow painted over and over for years
until it’s a physical presence not just a visual guide the layers

of paint countable like tree rings when what I want is the rush
and gurgle of what’s just below our pedestrian lives

Neighborhood song

Neighborhood song

Where things end up is past wondering.
Despair leaves a bag of burning shit at your door.

Rings the doorbell and runs. Sadness comes
to visit and sees the bag, stamps out the fire

before you can open the door and stop it.
Sadness never gets the trick. If you close

the door in its face, it will just stand there
and wait. Perspective texts you by mistake

a few minutes later: “You really put your foot
in it this time.” So eventually you let sadness in

And make it a favorite drink. You throw a comforter
and pillow on the couch, or chair, or floor.

You know it can take care of itself, and will leave
when it’s ready. Regret can’t blame the door

It walks into until you have opened it up to let
it in, and it can see what’s behind it clearly.

“You never should have let th-that thing in,”
pointing to the slumbering lump on the couch.

There is no need to be nice. Once you push
it out into the night, “You’ll end up wondering

what you’ve wasted your time on!” it says,
backing down the steps. The rain, being rain,

begins. Miles away the storm is thundering
like the biggest lost imagined toy. In the dark

you may have smiled, like a clock-face caught
by lightning. There are words for what you see

which don’t exist in the past, which dissolve like joy.
Where things end up is past wondering.