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Haylee Schwenk

Haylee Schwenk lives with her partner and daughter and two cats near Lake Erie, which, as the smallest and shallowest of the Great Lakes, is teaching her to reject labels and appreciate beauty wherever it appears. She loves cooking and feeding people, has recently become acutely aware of how much love surrounds her, and practices poetry as one way to understand. She is very grateful for many generous writers who offer community and counsel, both in Northeast Ohio and beyond. Her work has been published in Great Lakes Review, Q/A, and Pudding Magazine.

Things Won’t Clean Themselves Up, After All

after The End and the Beginning by Wisława Szymborska

The beginning signaled the end,
maybe, but in any case
after all this time
we have some cleaning up to do.

Someone, broom in hand,
on January 6 swept up the broken glass,
picked up discarded water bottles,
mopped up the literal shit left behind.

Someone has to get mired
in centuries of manifest destiny,
stolen lives,
stolen land,
corpses hanging from trees.

Our work is not photogenic
and will take years.
The cameras that documented the lynchings
now watch a Black man shot while jogging,
a Black man shot while walking away.

Someone will have to admit
all the beautiful bold ideas
that birthed this country we love
were wrapped up with theft,

Someone will have to plant trees,
dig up lead water pipes,
unboard windows,
repair the mortar in the front steps.

The grass can grow
over the ruins of anything
in time,
but someone must
make amends.

Unidentified Woman, 2019

In this 1984
Warhol photograph,
I might have been the
unidentified woman,
laughing, chin tilted up,
half-empty champagne glass
in my right hand,
left hand on the arm
of someone famous.

In 2019,
I am the
unidentified woman
in the Chazen Gallery,
Madison, Wisconsin,
my husband entranced
by Beth Cavener’s rabbit,
our grown children
taking selfies in front of
her lewd goats.

In 1984,
I was young and
passably pretty and
visited New York City
but was always the
unidentified woman.

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