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Two poems by Marc Swan

Before Mother Married Father

Scrambled eggs, bacon and toast,

coffee steaming between them

in the Red Robin Diner

in Johnson City New York,

she listens to her older brother,

recently married, visiting from Florida.

He sells cars, lives in a tract home

in Sarasota, no plan for kids.

Conversation shifts to a man she met

with eight brothers and sisters,

father a draftsman at IBM,

mother at home with younger children.

She thinks of her family—

mother emigrated from France at 16,

father grew up in foster care.

Her brother fifteen hundred miles away,

no nephews or nieces ahead,

she feels a pull to the man she recently met

she’ll follow for fifty-four years

when he starves to death

in a nursing home after breaking a hip,

refusing to eat, nurses unaware

of a denture stuck in his throat.

She doesn’t know

the sisters won’t accept her,

her husband wants a housewife

not a working partner.

They have two children, seven years

apart, one moves to Florida,

the other to California.

Much of her life spent at home

playing the piano, knitting, cleaning,

cooking, reading romance novels.

In this diner in 1940, she doesn’t know this.

She knows that tug,

hard to explain to her brother

who asks, “What about college,

you always wanted to be a writer?”

She smiles—

asks the waitress for a check.

In the Catacomb

I hold the thick plastic blue ring

in both hands. As the machinery

kicks in, I feel flutters

in my chest as the scanner

moves left, right,

a few minutes of analysis

then a soft sigh

when the beam begins to shine—

two minutes one way,

two minutes the other.

No pain or discomfort,

just a clink, click and whir.

The machinery quiets.

I sit up carefully,

slide off the slick metal table,

beeline to the bathroom.

On the thirty-minute drive,

I gulped down twenty-four

ounces of water,

the daily ritual—

empty rectum, full bladder.

I entered ground level,

walked down one flight,

then another into the hall

to the changing area—

a johnny and pale blue robe.

Five days a week, nine weeks—

feels like an eternity

then I hear

the waiting room stories.


Marc Swan is a retired vocational rehabilitation counselor. Recent work out in Stonecoast Review, The Nashwaak Review, Channel Magazine, Gargoyle, among others. His latest collection, all it would take, will be published in 2020 by tall-lighthouse (UK). He lives in coastal Maine with his wife Dd, an artist and yoga teacher.

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