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Three poems

What Changes

Before the ten o’clock HBO show

with Bill Maher bait and switching

his guests, spewing inflammatory rhetoric

astounding us liberal viewers in a comic way,

probably not even seen by the other side,

our host mixes up whiskey, sweet vermouth,

bitters, fills our half-full glasses with Meiomi

Pinot Noir as his wife flicks the fire starter,

powers up a freshly packed bowl, after breakfast

at the place we always go in Barnstable, after

an interlude of Tom Petty, Joni Mitchell, ZZ Top,

a mélange of hit makers from the seventies and eighties,

after a beach run with a cooler of iced-down Tecates,

homemade chicken salad, Cape Cod potato chips,

after three splendid hours soaking in Nantucket Sound

at their friend’s house on Squaw Island, after the sun

reaches a zenith, dusk settles in, though greenheads

have a mind of their own, after dinner at a local

sports bar where noise exceeds quality, and our ears

yearn for relief, we’re on leather chairs and a couch

with our friends of forty years in an air-conditioned

room, drinking another round, passing the pipe,

talking of all those changes in our lives.


in memory of Louis McKee

I’ve traveled city streets, four highways,

eight hours forty minutes to the University

at Buffalo The Poetry Collection. When I arrive

I’m taken to the archives where my poetry choice

is bundled and arrives on a tray set up especially

for me. Outside air is filled with moisture, droplets

drizzle onto the sill like memories searching for

a home, lost boys, not exactly, but close.

The world gets closer every day. A good poet

has died. I didn’t know him well, but for a while

we exchanged letters, books. Like Ray Carver,

he found truth in the human experience—simply

stated, universally understood. He had a unique

style in his choice of words, knowing when to cut,

when to click return to create space for the poem

to breathe, to bring forth a clarity, image or a phrase

that holds like in the chapbook I have in my hand,

vibrant as the fruit of its title; voice not flattened

by excess or pompous with academic flourish.

Kitchen Music: North of the Border

Sunday in Rustico at the Cymbria Lion’s Club céilidh,

full house, not locals as expected,

though there are a few scattered in a crowd of mostly

older folks, some younger with toddlers, small children

mill about in front—excited dancers

when the music kicks in. A young blonde fiddle player

with an effervescent smile asks how many from PEI,

Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec.

Hands raise, clapping follows, building as connections

rise like the wind pummeling pines overlooking the bay

in this pristine seaside community,

moving on to other provinces landing on America.

A multitude of hands raise: Pennsylvania, New Jersey,

Arkansas, New York, Maine. First

thought: why don’t we live here where breathing is fresh—

politics of our broken land more than a border away.


Marc Swan has poems recently published or forthcoming in Atlanta Review, Gargoyle, Mojave River Review, Chiron Review, among others. today can take your breath away, his fourth collection, was published in 2018 by Sheila-na-gig Editions. He lives with his wife Dd in Freeport, Maine.

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