Marc Swan, a retired vocational rehabilitation counselor, lives in coastal Maine. Poems recently published in Gargoyle, Crannóg, Paterson Literary Review, Queen’s Quarterly, among others. His fifth collection, all it would take, was published in 2020 by tall-lighthouse (UK). today can take your breath away was the first title published by Sheila-Na-Gig Editions.
it’s Valentine’s Day 1936
on an overstuffed couch cuddled
up beside Clara, a young woman
holding a heart-shaped box
of chocolates four years
before he married my mother.
He never talked of that day.
I saw the black and white photo
and my sister knew the story.
Today he is in a small room
with a window not far away
beneath a single white sheet
after a nasty fall,
breaking a hip,
untreated prostate cancer,
squamous cell carcinoma
oozing on his forehead—
alive in the eye of his mind.
He has stopped eating.
A nurse holds orders
of no extraordinary measures.
After the three hour flight to Tampa
and a seventy-five mile drive
north to a nursing home in Inverness
sunlight fills an empty bed—
–April 15, 1996.
for Marilyn Lerch
In an alcove beside Nick the Dutch baker,
across from Lise and her organic preparations,
Zev and Nicole display their wares
on a small table. She’s an artist.
He’s a writer penning poetic acclaim
for her paintings, which are striking in color
and range. My wife talks art with her.
He and I talk writing—
his novels, those ekphrastic poems.
The next day he emails an invite
to a writers’ gathering south
on the Acadian coast. We drive
an hour and a half,
enter a winery at the end of a narrow
paved road along a marshy
where we hear the former poet laureate
of Sackville New Brunswick read
from her recent collection—
on a front porch in Vancouver/
two quick drags/on some powerful dope/
and words come cottony/
from great distances…
Eighty-three-years old from Indiana,
taught in DC, ended up with her partner
in this remote eastern province.
I feel her energy take hold, and later
at Le Chat Bleu in Baie Verte
talk is of writing, art, local culture
settling on politics in our troubled land—
a curse we can’t seem to shake.
After fresh pasta, broccolini
and meatballs topped off
with a 2015 Barolo,
four of us in front of the gas logs
talk of our lives
spent, things done one way
that could’ve been done another.
Youthful relationships budding,
withering on the vine—
a pining for what once was.
Naive in so many ways,
some tried the rhythm method,
lost the beat,
others pulled out too late.
For many marriage was not an option.
Parents held the reins.
The dial clicked from adoption
in unsavory locales.
Hard choices for young minds.
What does love have to do with it?