Wally Swist

For the Dance
for Canadian Poet anne mckayand after the Butoh of Sankai Juku*

The sound of bells, gongs: water ripplesbeneath the sky past dusk; a columnof dust falls, a funnel of water—
between birth and death if onlythere were wings that could carry us.Candles flicker in a sway of smoke
against a winter-blue sky of stars: the airshimmers and brightens again; the colorsflare in the water the horizon fills.
Blue turns to green, all of the waterfringes red, then blues again in silhouette;a song that echoes the deep bass
of the night—then the new birth,a hymn, a bright mist, the music ignitinganother dawn. We begin again.
*Translated as: in the studio of mountain and sea.

Practicing Mindfulness
All day the rain blows in gusts; mist moves into swirl above the crackling of fallen leaves,to fill the branches of the trees where their foliage
had been, then disappears, reappears; the winddriving browned pine needles through the air.I cartwheel the rotted skids I cleared
a hundred feet down the slope behind the cabin,then lay out the new pine skids I acquiredfrom the lumber yard for free.

I practice mindfulness in movingthe split wood onto the skids: at first one piecein either hand, then I develop carting
an armload, the grit from the woodmuddying my work gloves, and the rainfalling hard enough that I change hats
from my beret to Provincetown ball cap.I stack the wood on the three skidsfarthest from the cabin four feet high;
the skid I place closest to the front door,I stack higher. Sometimes a knot in a pieceof split wood looks back at me like an eye,
and I move through the mist and pelting rainall afternoon to finish just before darkness—only the slash of the pile remaining.

Spring Letter to a Friend
It appears that winter has wound down to a lamb-like bleat,as we slosh our way through to the end of March.
My plans, as firm as any plans can be, are to ascend Tobyfor the first time this year. Most probably,
I will take a run up tomorrow. My hermit-in-a-hut existenceneeds a deserved respite, and I can truly use the aerobic
exercise of a ramble. So, I will roll up the bamboo screensand allow the swallows to use the exposed windows
for their acrobatic drills, while I trek up our small mountainto enjoy the luxury of the still-open views.

Wally Swist's new book, Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love, was chosen by Yusef Komunyakaa as a co-winner in the Crab Orchard Series Open Poetry Competition, and will be published by Southern Illinois University Press in the spring of 2012. His previous book, Luminous Dream, was chosen as a finalist in the 2010 FutureCycle Poetry Book Award, and his scholarly monograph, The Friendship of Two New England Poets, Robert Frost and Robert Francis, was published by The Edwin Mellen Press in 2009. He has been invited to record an audio book of his nature poetry with Berkshire Media Arts.