Three poems by R L Swihart


I’m in Dresden. Over-Ibised Prager Strasse. Below me: three alien globes
spraying water. Above me: swallows or swifts (feathered boomerangs
answering to no one’s hand), I can never tell the difference

With one ear, I feel like the son of a mantid and a clam. Oddly enough,
my family has dubbed me Cyclops

I follow the swallows, search in vain for razor and cream, reminisce with
the little green man (“That was your brother in Berlin?”), order a döner
before the kiosks close

I’m in Dresden. Zwinger. Semper. Neumarkt. Frauenkirche is once again
Frauenkirche and not just a pile of rubble. The black stones are diriges
floating in the new cream:

“Old and new stones have been joined to give a clear, meaningful
indication that the past is always part of the future
and that wounds can heal.”

Seems “swift” is more fitting, but the birds aren’t saying a word

Uwe (reeking of Rauchen) meets me in the elevator lobby. His eyes are curious
slits in yellow pouches. Narrow lenses magnify the slits. He smiles and asks,
“English?” “No, American.” “Uuuuu. Can you guess which door will open
first?” Then there’s a bell and two arrows pointing up

Strindberg and Astoria

I’m on an airplane. Airplane mode. Siri, Oogust,
and a little essen

I’m cracking up over Strindberg and Helium:

STRINDBERG: Absinthe is now my only vice, my last remaining pleasure.

HELIUM: Pleasurrrre!

I picked up Strindberg because of Kafka. Now I’m wondering
about Strindberg’s other children

The only souvenirs I picked up in Portland were donuts (Voodoo)
and the photo of an interesting sign: KEEP PORTLAND

Past the stink of the paper mills and I’m in Astoria. Watching
the patient ships and longsuffering bridge, occasionally
looking back at the houses

You've Returned Without Saying a Word

A cleft between old and new, and bridges like dissolving stitches
between the two. The river (silent from here) is stampeding

Sunflowers on every other plate in every other store. From a distorting
loudspeaker, a white sedan issues the same old slogans,
is choking the streets with dust

One of Rilke’s angels (tired of playing Dark) has retired here
and opened a driving school. The logo is a cluster
of hanging catkins

I cannot stop the boy from running down the path to the cliff park.
Yes, I have a ball of string. By noon his kite (a lonesome cloud)
is caught on the broken tooth of a distant sierra

The Arab arch. A path leading there and back

Another path at dusk. Houses receding. Dogs stretching out in shadow.
The interjection of a black pug that isn’t there, because she’s only

A chorus of inaudible voices. So why do I hear them—fomenting
revolution or taking potshots at an old can of Regret

About the author

R L Swihart was born in Michigan but now resides in Long Beach CA. (He just completed a “road trip” — from Long Beach…

Read the full bio

Issue 22 · April 2015

Table of contents