Issue 4: Todd Swift

‘Somewhere the mimetic is having more fun than I am’

Somewhere the mimetic is having more fun than I am

Doing what is done when description windowdresses

The world in frontage, clear as snowdrops in a cup.

The work of enjoyment is outnumbered by confusion,

Or only the flagrant frost of cans & trousers, poles

For fishing, & other displayed tackle. Brought down,

The claim to see & say; this whirlpool is no hypnotist’s plot.

The vision on offer today is grim: brooding germs spoil

In July, but ladder in August to overbreed the solar lung;

Disease binds deep into our wind, cannot be expunged.

Few will survive this transit, so flares beckon the ailing

To camps where sleeves are rolled up, injections slipped.

Now a medical universe is sharp as new-dabbed barns,

Clean as Christmas in white slapdashery. Hung up

By gloomy rafters an unworkable Farmer Brown fishes

For breath, unhooked becomes a clam. No speech acts

As well as a loop for a throat. Tie one on & plunge.

Taking this as morbid helps, as daily assists, as done.

Crisp despair & stylised anxiety won’t quite quip a virus

Off the surface. A cut describes its own revulsion in red

Ink, or is a body celebrating when it grins out, festooned?

Race to the poles, where answers are stacked in Quonsets,

Then radar back info-rubber to the chaps at HQ on wires.

Death was harpooned, refuses to blubber further. Sung

Like that, these undefeated lyrics express strange happiness.

I think Of Delmore Schwartz, Beside My Sleeping Love

Romantic, an American lyric

Pitched to Plato, past to a sleeping blonde

By my side (Frisch’s Stiller slipped

From her hand like a hypodermic) –

As birdsong types out a serious letter

Calling out for madness and History

To meet underground, spring’s

Union in the grave, that breaks

When love’s excess proves rhetoric

Can be poetry before it persuades.

Beauty read Freud and smoked cigarettes,

Was smart, milk came in bottles, those vessels

Rattled, and genocide was still

Locked in the razor of one ill heart.

The complex mode puts leaves on trees

And summer is a good idea of the mind

Long before ever it was experience –

For we imagine knowledge to be good

And sure, even though, as Eden’s children

Mostly what we knew was unconfined –

Our syntax slipped away from land

Our rocking beds sailed on moonlight

The frost of sky our beaconing horizon.

Awake ghost voyager now, who sank

In the unmoored mind’s Mariano,

Unrafted, swollen with brain-rot,

Wracks of passion – unable to know friend

Or pirate in the shadow of shadow.

The sublime may call for clarity

But is often served by vague men who doom

Their jutting prows to strike odd reefs,

Unroofed by calm lingo and straighter goals.

Only in subtle bays or surface shoals

Do tides or pools destroy; not in desert rooms;

The gloom is the sea spray breaking in.

So were your self-made cuts to brow

Of mad projections (of madder maps) both slight

Surface and submarine profound too – sufficient

To render sinking thoughts and feelings

Mirroring out emotion, casting a beam to blind –

Blindness not bestowing wisdom but poison

To fog the clown, whose mask of white pain

Conveys words for pain as well; mascara on skin

That goes to the roots subcutaneous and beyond.

To die alone is to contain a sorrow blossoming

Before sane spring arrives, to know disorder

Thriving like a bulb bled in shaken ground,

Still the ground the only self that one can own,

So one’s garden is infested with an early frost even

In the middle of a bright seeming normal sun.

A renaissance as rain bows down the cherry tree,

As men cough in thin hallways before they frown

To click at keys that lead them on through frail doors

To places of walls, pale carpets and burns on floors

That speak of beige traffic, and fisticuffs in closets.

To fail is obscure – it means one first could win,

Be laurelled, in order to sink, like Satan; you did;

I see this unmastery fight itself off now in me.

Twilight like a courtier bows at the long glass pane;

The Queen of Night allows access to her pavilion.

O, high sensation and archaic claims of style!

The tree that latticed our bodies with light and shade

When we wake is not a metaphor or natural –

Spoken into greenery by this thrill of penmanship –

Spendthrift and untidy on a foolscap before sleep.

Your adoration has slackened on the bed

And yet by force of habit are we both read

On one page forever unioned by a line’s crown.

Such a coronation of an abstract love is

Grandiose perfection of the written ring.

Hammersmith, May 2009

Todd Swift was born in Montreal in 1966 and has lived in Europe since 1998. He is a graduate of the UEA MA in Creative Writing. Since 2004 he has been Oxfam GB poet-in-residence. He is a tutor with the Poetry School and a university lecturer. His poems have appeared in New American Writing, Jacket and Poetry Review. He has published six collections of poetry, most recently, Mainstream Love Hotel, tall-lighthouse press, 2009. He is a poetry editor for Nthposition and blogs as Eyewear.