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Contributor Notes




Todd Swift

Todd Swift




The Teetotaller’s Song

 

The woman in Waitrose

Considering lamb, or,

On Marylebone, hurrying

In the cold first hours of February –

Each enticing met face

Reminds, not of pleasure

But of pleasure’s final consequence –

An exhaustion, fine and judicious

As strong boys wrestling,

Shirts off, on August grass,

Neither yielding their bit of lawn,

Their held shadows poised,

As if deciding whether to break

Or forever remain intact, enclosed.

 

So I love the appreciation

Of an arm, a throat, a gloved

Hand, drinking the unreasoned source

Of this adulterous notice,

Alert to what is expected of the world,

England, unbound from January,

The ones on the street I do not stop,

Entice, embrace, and kiss –

Writing this in loving’s stead,

Giddy as after being christened,

Lifted up, to the watered day,

My sober, spun, anguished forehead.


 

 

In Memory of F.T. Prince

 

‘Because to love is terrible we prefer/The freedom of our crimes’ – from an early published version of ‘Soldiers Bathing’, F.T. Prince, Captain, M.E.F. (British)


Desire ages, ages hardly at all,

Edges, like those of a book,

Curled at the beach, where waves,

Sent by the summer, brush

The salt away, finely-combed,

And it is homosexual love

That holds us in its palm,

That cuts and dries the hair

 

We both wore, like uniforms,

That day that was a decade,

Though neither of us found a bed

That could be so cleanly made;

 

For now, married, on continents

Split as if in some biblical debate,

We have shelved those dreamy

Acts of early indiscipline,

 

Where, cock from trousers,

Cock in hand, we edged, together

To a cliff, a Christian form

Of final decision, in the Italian sand,

 

But stepped away from intercourse,

Or love, decided that, as men,

Our hearts belonged to those

Who could tend it otherwise, and so,

 

Packed up our bathing suits,

And wore trim expressions

Home, at dawn, dressed, like wounds

More deeply in blood-lies.

 

Words have a purpose if no meaning

Beyond shorelines where they crash,

Which is to deface emotion

With communication, in a style

 

That drowns the jungle wholesale,

And no ark or personality can swim

Free of its deciding glamour

And deceptive fluidity: so smile,

 

And say, it was not love, that drove

Our Damascene caresses to a cross,

Upon which loss lay openly, but

Desire suffered in its private language –

 

No, it was decorum, or fear of

Impropriety – simply petty feeling,

Feeling inadequate to emotionality –

But those who nailed the arm of God

 

Into the wood were strong enough

To withstand hardier cruelty,

And played at the weeping feet,

Just as the artists, unknown mostly

 

Except for the names of school

Or master, too, commanded passion

To an ordering, pictorial and strange,

Of such derangements of the body

 

As we could never have drawn

From our quivers to disarrow, true –

So saying, even being, overcome

Is not the terrible action it appears –

 

No, it is the naïve aversion to it,

Slowly accruing to regret, by year,

That marks the one, who, like Cain,

Enters a town each time as someone

 

Immediately despised, narrow, pained,

Leaving the districts with stones

For signs the boys follow out with

On the path; love’s release is betraying,

 

Even as it holds back confession

To end as a marble, certain epitaph.

 


Our children


Love has the power to undo

nothing, but like a refrain, returns

to that absence so often

it becomes a thing, a lake of fire

 

in which husband and wife

bathe when going to bed

and when rising in the morning

to the rooms of the lit dark house.



 

On the Eve of Surgery

 

Because you had not died

            Or might not soon,

Though some time

            I bought flowers

Yellow, white, and yellow again

 

No other friend

            Became my life

As you did

And do

Childhood never ends

When two love as one

            Love born in spring

Or reborn

 

Eloquence is not natural

Or must be if it runs

Through the passions

            Despair to miss you

When you were here

Are here

 

I write this in two times

Two places, one

What I most hope for

Your living

The other what I most fear

 

These two worlds

Bring sorrow and sorrow’s end

Together as a bouquet,

Stemming and flowering

Tears we all know

 

Require of us born-breaths

That first demand of air

            Air in which we suffer

And endure encompassing love

 


 

Paddington Recreation Grounds

 

Boys on their field lit like an aquarium

sad to not be alight, like them, with goals

that a foot or hand can win; poetry’s rules

no less old than theirs, but poets

are not only players on green grass, night

and day, also the old-eyed others

edged in the park, who nod at each leap in air,

each attained yelp and elbowed throw,

the muscular panoply of bodied action

folded into hours with an end; slow to

leave, friendless, they once stood on the line,

or blew as referee, their bones now cold

and all trophies pawned. So poems both play

 

and hold, gravely, as if a mourner stood,

one self under the hood of the ground, the other,

above, head bowed, to pray. We stand and lie,

this way, to make the words hit home.

So ball and word fly untrue until a hand undoes

the flight by taking it down from abstract

to real motion, feeling out the meaning of its gut,

impacted with the lob’s sorrow-start,

the needing thrower’s heart, which is to gain

the art’s accolades, not be cheered in dismal

parades that sow ribbons on winners,

and never lift the anguished fade that flows

across the dark, onto playing grounds.