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Posts Tagged ‘Catherine Swanson’


I am captivated by the concept that underlies Holly Day’s “My Safety Net,” which opens this issue. “…if I pretend I am a machine, I can stay calm, I am // just a washing machine humming to myself…” So real, so personal. No idea if it’s true, it doesn’t matter. It says so much about human interaction, about the desire to connect, the fear and shyness that can raise, all done in a quick, short poem. Brava!

Reese Conner writes “Bring Flowers to What You Love,” which starts, “I am aggressive tonight. Bring flowers / to the cemetery.” And indeed this is an aggressive, jagged poem, taking sudden corners, hurt and hurting. “Let’s dance on the graves of men… bearing the funniest names.” But this is not a poem of limited palette: “no one will know / how to hug when it matters.” Both of those lines show a sly use of enjambment to surprise us, throw us off track. Very much a smiling through the pain poem; one is left with compassion and sorrow.

Paul Bone’s “Recurrences” uses the trick of repetition to hint at the subject of his poem. “It is the one in which my kids are gone… It is the one in which my ex-wife is / my now-wife and my now-wife never was.” My answer to the riddle is recurring dreams, but of course it’s more complicated than that. There is a progression of characters and place, from stanza to stanza. “…my son is lost / but there is no one to help in all of Tokyo.” The narrator morphs into Everyman, and reading along, we become all of these refugees, these children, these seekers, lost and helpless. A complex, beautiful work.

Catherine Swanson does a great unwinding of a poem, “It Will Be As If We Never,” and indeed, the poem is about erasing things. “First, I’ll take my footsteps / from the dirt.” Stones will skip backwards / to the shore.” We start with external, physical items, but of course the narrator soon turns to memories, and actions. “I’ll reclaim my breathless phone calls… you’ll think / you hear knocking… but no one / will be there.” So it’s about the ending of a relationship, which as we understand that, feels just exactly right. Fiendishly clever ideas, worked out one after the other, with a satisfying final line.

And finally, Brandon Hansen gives us “When We Saw Coyotes,” which starts, “They blitzed the path, pumped / their strung-out legs.” Great image for me, because there is a sense of the junkie about coyotes, though I never identified it before this poem. Another spiky, dangerous-feeling poem. The coyotes find a fawn and attack it. And in so doing, give the location itself an emotional presence. “we hate it there, / that grove where we go / to burn pictures of ex-boyfriends…” Our actions correlate to those of the animals, we even identify with them. “we get it… we are all hungry.” A shivery poem, indeed.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of poems, Against The Night, a sweet, rueful look at love in a long marriage, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

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