Fiction   Essays   Poetry  The Ten On Baseball Chapbooks In Memory

Marc Swan

First It Was the Clock

She kept checking the time as she moved
from the cooking peas to the macaroni
and back again, turning the gas on
and off as she went by the stove. I was
nine and she was much older and pretty
in that elderly way with a tight coil
of grey hair, a floral print housedress
and rose-colored bedroom slippers. I was
helping her sort out the attic filled with nine
childrens’ clothes and memories, tons
of memories. She chattered on and on
about what each piece held and what each
piece lost. Within the scope of an afternoon,
she had worked through forty years
and now we were in the kitchen.
She back and forth to the macaroni,
the peas, the stove, on and off with the gas.
I asked her about the peas and the on and off
of the gas stove and she responded in words
I had never heard her say, more sounds,
like a trapped animal, guttural and low,
growling not at me, but at something out there.
I left the kitchen and went to the black dial
phone on the dining room bureau and dialed
home. Busy. Again Busy. Again and again.
I was repeating the kitchen routine
on the phone, but I knew the number
and I had a reason, and finally I had an answer.

Rain on the outside dry skies within

Emmylou spreads her arms wide to the thousand
mostly grey-haired crowd
and says in that perfectly clear way
she can say things
“I just turned sixty” and the audience
rises as one in applause
not for her candidness
I’m sure but for that timeless
quality she exudes
she wears Spanx to keep the expanding flesh
in the right direction
and there are creases where smooth
skin once lived
but her eyes are like quicksilver
high cheeks lively and pink
curved fingers strum more than pick
and the voice now well aged
as that wine we had for dinner tonight
a superb rioja
full of fruit and berry and smooth
very smooth
going down
when she broke into "Songbird"
a woman
a guitar
and a mandolin player

who knew she’d go thirty plus songs
in a row with an encore to keep the crowd alive

©2008 by Marc Swan

Marc Swan is a rehabilitation counselor living on Munjoy Hill in Portland, Maine. His poems have found an international audience, with publication in literary magazines throughout the US, and in Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and India. His most recent collection, In A Distinct Minor Key, was published by tall-lighthouse in April 2007. He supports buying local, buying organic, and is a farm-share member in the developing community supported agriculture movement in Maine.

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