Featured Poets Week: Wally Swist

Ode to Saint Dismas

According to Luke
in the Gospel of Nicodemus, your name
translated from the Greek, means sunset,
signifies death.

The penitent
one of two thieves, the one crucified to
the right of Christ, who turned to Him,
and acknowledged

His punishment
unjust; who recognized His innocence;
whereas, the convicted thief to the left
of Christ mocked

Him in the taunt
that if Christ were the Son of God, He
could save them, as well as Himself; so
it was you,

Saint Dismas,
by your example, that you teach us how
the strength and power of humility can
offer us all

courage in
the possibility of our attaining the light
which is abundant; that the heretofore
unthought of

grace is not
so much ascending into Heaven above
us, but in our realizing the truth that it is
the Christ within us

who thrives
and flourishes; that at any time we can
be awakened; that our legacy of living
in the incandescent

from moment to
moment only becomes fulfilled through
our awareness of fully realizing it; that
as you spoke

your last words
to Christ, both of you hung on the splintered
wood of crude crosses, before a centurion’s
spear roughly

pierced His side,
and then yours, ensuring that you had died,
but not before hearing Christ speak to you,
as he continues

to do
in absolving each one of us; and that if
we acquiesce, This day thou shalt be with
me in paradise.

Purple Iris

            for Gabriel Rummonds

They bloom above
the yellow dazzle of cosmos
and even after the sticky sweetness
of the vibrant petals of red peonies
were shattered by wind and rain.

These royal purple iris,
reigning atop their thin stems,
announce themselves
as royalty to the garden,
their petals veined with magenta

and tipped at their center
with a dab of yellow,
holding themselves
open, as if always flying upward,
their emanation a similar hue

as that associated with Zadkiel
and the angels of the purple light ray,
whose auras are so memorable
that they appear
as they appear, etched and emblazoned,

by a divine aesthetician,
and providing not just contentment,
which can merely be palpable,
but also constitutes a healing visage,
a balm for the eyes—

as if the irises themselves
are rinsed by their color
pervading the air, and in their
uncommon, but simple, decorum,
avail themselves in cleansing us all.

Wally Swist’s recent books include The Map of Eternity (Shanti Arts, 2018), Singing for Nothing: Selected Nonfiction as Literary Memoir (The Operating System, 2018), and On Beauty: Essays, Reviews, Fiction, and Plays (Adelaide Books, 2018). His book A Bird Who Seems to Know Me: Poems Regarding Birds & Nature was the winner of the 2018 Ex Ophidia Press Poetry Prize and published in 2019. His other books include The Bees of the Invisible (2019) and Evanescence: Selected and New Poems (2020), also from Shanti Arts of Brunswick, Maine. Versions of these poems appear in The Map of Eternity and Evanescence: Selected Poems.


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