Wally Swist

Lingering beside Long Pond, Indian Summer
Sitting beneath the river birch,yellow leaves parsedand falling in the wind, we watcha pale green scarf that risesthen floats over the blue pond, as it landsfluttering over the ripples,pulling in its wings to set down its stick legsin the cool gray mud,to unveil its true form, after masqueradingas anything but itself—this magician, this master angler, standing in silenceamid the willows,and wading among the reeds, where the heron takes comfortbeside the floating deadwoodto become invisible again.

Mirage To take a walk on the meadow path beforeI went to work at the bookstore that afternoon endowed me with a memory that still swingslike an invisible medallion around my neck, still perplexing me all these years later. The heatclimbing as the sun rose higher in the sky, the dry burn of it beginning to swelter ina building humidity beneath banks of low cumulus. The two-lane meadow path winding onwardin its gritty tire tracks, split by its grassy tufts of bent stalks of sedge and spike rush, roughedby tractor undercarriage and sled. As I walked, I could feel my sweat beading beneath my shirt,and before I came upon open meadow on the edge of the woods, I stopped and turned, onlyto look up into the upper branches of the white oaks, swinging their heavy brooms of leaves,windswept and lush with their whisking music, shushing the polyphony of cicadas that fillsthe house of summer. When my eyes spotted them, so unnatural, out of order,among the swaying of the oaks, leading me to think that the heat had induced a mirage,a hallucinogenic vision of the flock
of wild turkeys balancing their unwieldybodies high in the trees to perch on the limbs. I can still see them up there, somewhereabove ground and beyond reason, the heat of the day hammering the air so that the birdsseemed to mirror themselves in a haze— wild turkeys that had been able to raisethe heaviness of their bodies up on their pygmy wings and to have flown into the oaksalong the path, their presence alerting me to having seen something untoward, freakish,even in their apparent hiding their seeming unbidden, out of position, the uneasy but sheercertainty of knowing their being out of place.

Wally Swist’s books include Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love (Southern Illinois University Press, 2012), selected by Yusef Komunyakaa as co-winner in the 2011 Crab Orchard Series Open Poetry Contest, and A Bird Who Seems to Know Me: Poems Regarding Birds & Nature (Ex Ophidia Press, 2019), the winner of the 2018 Ex Ophidia Press Poetry Prize.
Recent books of poetry include The Bees of the Invisible (2019), Evanescence: Selected Poems (2020), and Awakening & Visitation (2020), all with Shanti Arts.
Forthcoming books include, A Writer’s Statements on Beauty: New & Selected Essays & Reviews, Taking Residence, and a translation of Giuseppe Ungaretti’s L’Allegria, also with Shanti Arts.

See Wally Swist's Archive page to read more of his work.