Two Poems by Wally Swist

Clearing, at Hogback

What brought us closer
          was the ride along 9-West in the fog
from Brattleboro to Bennington,
          curves of the macadam unwinding
through thick forest, one pitched hillside
          after another, droplets of mist visible
in the air, until bolts of sunlight ignited
          the contours of the sloping ridges,
illuminating the gold and russet
          leaves, but it was Mount Equinox
that left us breathless, the enormity
          of its expanse stretching beyond
church spires to fill such an immensity
          of sky, how it looms, more of a guide
than a shadow, not so much over but
          above the land; mid-October’s biblical
coat of many colors filling its bulk,
          the parameters of it stretching to
rest its immensity across the horizon.
          What filled you was finding the gem
in the antique store on Main Street,
          the brass candlestick, that you could
polish when you returned home,
          carrying the prize trophy claimed
to celebrate the triumph of the day.
          Although what brought us closest
was corroborating which peak it was
          where you felt the ledge drop off,
which we couldn’t see in the fog
          driving up, but that had cleared
by the time we were on our way back,
          that we realized we had stopped at
twenty years earlier, how we stood
          enrapt in the view, from Hogback,
the undulation of the land
          which made us exhale reverentially,
and that prompted me to catch you
          as you stumbled on a hillock before
the stonewall along the ledge,
          providing an occasion to look and see
what was before us, what we
          had these years, even if you couldn’t
recall all of it anymore, even
          if we had squandered some of it, both
of us understood that is not
          what mattered, that what mattered
at that moment, scanning
          the panoramic view in astonishment,
was that we were finally
          present for what brought us even closer.

Inflorescence

Sparkling morning, simmering wind
          in the trees, the coolness of autumn
moving in under the late summer warmth,
          the air and the light struck with
a lucidity, a transparency upon which
          the sky, if it were glass, and if it were
painted blue, could not break because
          of its light being so supple,
so pure in its being pliable, light glittering
          across Long Pond, water lilies
floating in pale green clusters, stippled with
          opened pink and white flower hearts,
our acutely being aware of time passing,
          and as quickly as one diamond
is reflected across the pond another appears
          to take its place, as each branch of
the hophornbeam languishes in
          the intermittent stillness before it
moves again in the slightest breeze,
          as you ask me again if I am present,
and I answer you, yes, you who live more
          in the present each day, more
alive in the passing of memory, a slight smile
          playing across your stoic face,
marking your resilience, as you watch every
          nuance of the simmering wind
with its underlying autumn coolness rising
          through the impermanence of
the light glistening through the inflorescence
          of rocking clusters of timothy.

Wally Swist’s recent books include Taking Residence (Shanti Arts, 2021), Evanescence: Selected Poems (Shanti Arts, 2020), 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. A Writer’s Statements on Beauty: New and Selected Essays and Reviews was published by Shanti Arts in April 2022.

Image: Will Swann / Unsplash

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