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Three Poems - Marc Swan

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Flashing eyes, in her hand
a 4th of July flag, determination
in her step, I imagine
a whole scenario
in this Magnum photo.
They say the camera never lies.
They say when people unite, change
is possible. I've never
been to Kosovo. I only know
of these photos, sound bytes
on the nightly
news. If it's truth
you're after - the dog's tail
wags at the thought of a stroke,
a biscuit in an open hand.
Ethnic cleansing
is an oxymoron. America
has become
a nation of apologists
I fear. If we had,
if we said,
if we followed

what we say we believe -
under what tree,
behind which rock,
would cleansers hide?
Even I know the whine
of a spent cartridge
doesn't linger.


Southern Exposure

We're flying. Lush green valleys rise
into stiff mountain peaks.
No snowcaps here, ocean
though, as far as the blessed eye
can see deep blue-green
of the Caribbean and breakers,
light and fluffy as meringue,
stand up and kiss the shifting
egg-white sand. We settle
onto the tarmac, custom
shack thick with the whine
and zap of mosquitos, drone
of small black flies circling
in ripening mid-afternoon
heat. It will rain soon.
With the help of a twenty dollar
bill, we pass easily to a downtrodden
'55 Chevy Bel Air, front door
wired shut, windows cracked,
cracked lemon-yellow paint, faded
cloth seats burned with the ash
of a thousand unfiltered Populars
Grunting beneath the load
of a half million miles, it turns
over with a pop and a crackle
on the second try. We drive
along the Malecon. Blood
red-lipped girls in black
leather miniskirts, halter tops,
stiletto heels, wave to us; abuelas
raise cloudy gray eyes, gnarled
hands to us; dark, thin, tall
men on women's bicycles, tattered
playing cards clothespinned
to bent spokes, pedal by intent
on a thin ray of light beyond
the seawall burning
brighter. As we come close
we watch him ascend
behind a wire parapet, familiar
fatigues, black beret, coarse
silver beard sways in a tropical breeze.


9:15 to Buenos Aires

You have to have lived, to have suffered,
to understand the tango...
taxi driver in Buenos Aires

The Tango Lesson

In her widow's dress, hair dyed black,
piled high on her 36-year-old head,
she could be a peasant shucking
peas in a sun-struck Sicilian doorway,
grandchildren laughing nearby,

except she lies flat, alone.
I knew little of this woman who smoked
generic cigarettes, swore, chattered
in a relentless monotone - her questions

bit huge chunks of the hazy blue air.
No more talk-talk, no more hazy blue air.
My wife knew this woman six years, pictures
her lying in bed, pillow pulled tight
over her eyes - in her secret place,

a place where her older sister, murdered
in a drug deal gone awry, never visits,
where her mother diagnosed with a brain
tumor is well and happy. Her father tips

his black felt fedora to all who pass by.
His daughter is safe, in a good place.
She caught the 9:15 to Buenos Aires
where high wind whistles through thick
black hair as she twirls over polished tile.


Click here for more poems by Marc Swan (Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA) on this site. And some more!

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