Wally Swist

The Order of Things In Memory of Robert Winne 1. One pink-red rose among rosettesBlooms beside the flickering prismaticSpider webs strung among the florescenceOf yarrow and mint leaves,Where we stood last autumnWhen you were still alive,This brilliant June morning; birdsong risingFrom the sheen of the needles of hemlockBranches along the path. 2. Purple flags of wild irisAnd the large yellow buttons of the corollasOf oxeye daisies thrive among foxtail grassAmid the ahness of a single flower headOf orange hawkweed; one whole shoulderOf the trail up to the Peace PagodaBursting white with mountain laurel;Some of their flower clustersShattered after the heavy June rainsAnd scattered beneath their shrubberyIn the detritus of leaves and dried mud. 3. The sound of a woodpeckerRapping on a tree trunk, then stopping,And rapping again, echoes from afar,Deeper in the woods. An entire plywoodPlatform of stone sculptures near the crestOf the last hill are still largely intact, mostOf which have survived the wind and the rain,Since the last time we walked here. 4. When I reach the top of the trailTo the open field before the Peace Pagoda,A mourning cloak circles me several times;Frogs croak from the Koi pond; a whirOf electric hand tools buzzesFrom workers in the meditation hall,That much closer to being fully constructed;The stone lion dooryard guardians,That we saw being erected on their brickDais and plinth, now perennially welcomeThe sangha who enter in all of their ShambhalaStrength; images of Avalokiteśvara adornEither side of the carved wooden templeDoors; someone has moved the benchWe would sit on into the small meadowAnd placed it farther into the shade. 5. Pink mountain laurel compliments the colorOf the pond lilies just opening across the water. Yellow iris blooms among purple clover,Vetch, and ragged robin.Fallen white peonies and desiccated rugosa rosesLay collapsed in the grass or rock in the breezeThat ripples the lines of multi-coloredPrayer flags over the pondWhere the diphthong of one frog answersThe elasticity in the voice of another. 6. The redness of a Japanese maple shadesThe entrance beside a boulderTo the path encircling the pond, butDoes not cover the space left by your absence.Bumblebees pollinate a stand of phlox,Their chartreuse petals exclamatory amongThe small green fronds of meadow grass;The diaphanous wings of mating dragonflies,When they collide, sizzleAgainst each other, instantaneously. 7. When I look deeply into the yellow centerOf the open white pond lily,It is as if I gaze directly into myself.Gray-black tadpoles and orange KoiSkitter through the pond waterWhen my shadow moves along the shore;A water snake slithers acrossThe pond’s surface, its head disappearingAmong the cattails and reeds beforeThe exaggerated cursives of its body. 8. The first prayer flag on one of the linesSnaps in a gust, well before the others.A grouse drums in the birch woods.A tiger swallowtail flies up and outOf the petaled shade of the dogwood’sCustard-colored blossoms,Just beyond the reclining BuddhaIn the north niche, the one thatIs said to be entering Parinirvana. 9. After I circumnavigate the Peace Pagoda,I find there is nowhere to go,And that you are one nowWith the nothingness that is your homeAnd will be ours.Birch leaves rustle in the slightest breeze.Sunlit patches of stellaria brighten in the grass.All of this has not happened quite this wayBefore; all of this, despite its recurrence,Will not ever be this way again. 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 poems and translations appear in Buddhist Poetry Review, Commonweal, Rattle, Still Point Arts Quarterly, Transference: A Literary Journal Featuring the Art & Process of Translation, and The Woven Tale Press. Collections of nonfiction include Singing for Nothing: Selected Nonfiction as Literary Memoir (The Operating System, 2018) and On Beauty: Essays, Reviews, Fiction, and Plays (Adelaide Books, 2018). Recent books of poetry include The Bees of the Invisible (2019) and Evanescence: Selected Poems (2020), both with Shanti Arts. Forthcoming books include Awakening & Visitation and Fruit of my Flower: Selected Adaptations & Translations, also with Shanti Arts.

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