Five Poems by Ben Swimm


Gene Gun

A good use as gold goes: bury it back
within the Earth. Bless it with our burdens,
or burden it with blessing us: may you
bring forth a fruitful filling of our silos!
Twenty-four karat corn, rain down and
fill the faithful guts. Obliterate the rest.
Bioballistics, regime change, rapture.
Always our destruction, swaddled in gold.



We spent the last days of summer
using our tools to erase you.
Mechanical saws to sever your trunks.
Mallet and wedge to topple you.

Your branches we burned and the rest
we stacked in piles to burn later.
After the dozer came to plow your stumps
we spent a week hacking at what remained:

tenacious viburnum; lateral birch roots
clinging to the soil like tendons.
Finally, you were covered by a shroud
of snow. The new ground no different.

What I want to say is that typically
we are opposed to such a situation,
but in this case had our reasons
and we did not wring our hands.



It smells like childhood lived outside: the milky squelch of mud
between the toes, the iron sting of red muck smeared along the nose.
How even now we sometimes want it on our hands and feet.
The basic palpability. Yes, we want to cake our limbs
in yellow clay flecked blue, bruised with pedigrees of leaves and moss;
find the softness in a substrate made of rock; grasp the weight of
merging into something new among the soil fauna,
all in different ages of decay. Then we end where we begin:
wet tack of soil packed at the bottom of a backyard hole.
Already I am letting go to fold my body into it.


Responsibility, One

April wedding.
By May we’re back
in the fields, keeping
the weeds down
and tending to a bumper
crop of strawberries.
A blessing: the berries
clamoring to our baskets,
racing in their blush
from white to plump
and crimson
on the garden beds.
Our hands and mouths,
stained for weeks.
Even after growing
sick of all the shortcake,
we plod each morning
to the patch
just to keep the fruit
from rotting.


Responsibility, Two

The spring thaw
turned frigid overnight
and this morning
the rooster’s feet
are frozen solid
with the melted shit
he slept in at
the bottom of the coop.

On the road,
the school bus
with its flashing lights
stops to load
the neighbor kid,
still wearing shorts
in a show of
springtime optimism.

Clack clack
the rooster’s feet
against the ice
as he patters
around outside,
protecting the hens
even as his toes
turn black.

Ben Swimm is pursuing an MFA in poetry at Oregon State University. His poems have previously been published in Cirque and Clapboard House.


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