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The Poems of Robert Sward

ae_RobertSwardEditor’s note:  In this week’s Poetry Corner, we feature the work of Robert Sward who has taught at Cornell University, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and UC Santa Cruz. A Guggenheim Fellow, he was chosen by Lucile Clifton to receive a Villa Montalvo Literary Arts Award. His more than 20 books include: “Four Incarnations” (Coffee House Press), “Rosicrucian in the Basement,” “The Collected Poems,” and “God is in the Cracks” (Black Moss Press, Canada), now in its second printing. His latest, “New & Selected Poems,” 1957-2011, is about to be published by Red Hen Press.

ODE TO SANTA CRUZ —For Sandy Lydon

You want a sunrise? asks the poet,
I’ll give you a sunrise. Eggplant cirrus clouds,
pinky smoky blue and gray,
pink, moss pink, pink nether flower
sunrise, sunrise
yellow white silicon chip
foghorn, windchime, no-color haze.

Sunrise sunrise
O City of Mystical Arts and Live Soup,
Antique bathhouse, casino
Riva Fish House,

A busload of German tourists
applauding (applaudieren!)
the sunrise.
clam chowder, O scrubbed blue light
melon balls and watermelon shooters,
arcade, pink neon, roller coaster heart-shaped mirror.

KA-BOOM! House begins to dance,
land moves in waves three and four feet high,
weight machines swaying, mirrors rattling,
a sidewalk of broken glass,
a street filled with jewels.
Loma Prieta, The Earthquake of the Dark Hill,
place, this place, always coming back from a disaster.
Natural beauty and unnatural events,
jazz, blues, canoes, tattoos,
I bow and give thanks to the muse,

 

IOWA
What a strange happiness.
Sixty poets have gone off drunken, weeping into the hills,
I among them.
There is no one of us who is not a fool.
What is to be found there?
What is the point in this?
Someone scrawls six lines and says them.
What a strange happiness.

 

NIGHTGOWN, WIFE’S GOWN
Where do people go when they go to sleep?
I envy them. I want to go there too.
I am outside of them, married to them.
Nightgown, wife’s gown, women that you look at,
beside them—I knock on their shoulder blades
ask to be let in. It is forbidden.
But you’re my wife, I say. There is no reply.
Arms around her, I caress her wings.

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