CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
Two Poems
Brian Swann



Orderly

It drew in my eyes, a slab, on it a huge white fish
just landed, or beached, a beluga, intact, naked,
no escape, lights flat silver and relentless, half on,
humming, as in the cramped space I tried to walk
around it, my first day, just eighteen, and as it drew me
to it, forcing my head round between legs splayed
as if securely asleep, I tried to block out the face
that watched, long gray hair loose, lying softly
over shoulders and flat breasts, horror and indignity and shame,
then a click made me jump and the lights came on
all round full as in a theater after the curtain falls,
and he slouched in, high rubber boots turned over
at the top and a long yellow rubber apron squeaking
like Homer’s ghosts, and as he hosed down the floor
bits of flesh jumped up and stuck to him, staying there
when he turned the water off, sat down on a stool,
opened a brown paper bag and took out a sandwich
carefully wrapped in waxpaper, meat sticking out the sides,
and my eyes could not move from the flecks that
clung to him as he ate and swallowed without chewing
or looking up and I couldn’t move out of the way of what
I saw as it came at me, as if this was the way of things.








Old Squaw

Narrow rooftops live out
  broken sentences. Along the
slick road a snarl of wind.
  The steep avenue’s a
cable taking something
  in tow—the March sun
at its frayed end.
  Rain’s held off, so
a bride can sleep, floating
  above those roofs all
veil and silk—no,
  pigeons, no, ducks,
old squaw? Not a line
  or v but wheeling over
this rusting bridge that
  spans a canal once stream,
turning as one, with nowhere
  home but as if everywhere
was, choosing after
  tilt and veer, flex from
the hip, flashing white bellies
  as they sweep and flow
over my car, and I go out
  the window with a heave
if wordless love that could
  still save me, face to face,
as they lock into their purpose,
  going.