Two Poems

Slow paddle of my mother’s pectoral fin
grazes my back.
Megaptera: “great wings.”
In deep water, I roll over, bathed by the cool caress.
Fins, like outstretched wings,
shelter just long enough, and not more.

From the roar of buried caverns,
I hear black sound from another time—
the language unchanging—moans
and high-pitched
eerie sighs.
Our impenetrable song.
Haunting wails reach back before we can remember,
before we knew a song, a song.

In deep swells tones elongate.
New patterns resurrect night’s dense longing—
steady thrum of world as sea,
as conscious lover.
(Inside/outside abandoned long ago.)

Our voices strain to reach a rim of stars.


I.  1991

The Blackfoot meanders through mountainous terrain.
Bright-needled warlocks of spruce and pine
shoulder her banks.
Aspens downstream exfoliate—
shimmer of leaf-light  
shred to rags. 
Radiant, she will be my green beginning.
Gentle lover of my long exile.

Dark river, I have carried you a long way,
water winding me in silence.  
Now you burgeon
into brightness.  
Your fish dream starlight, 
quiet pools,
speckled rocks 
of plum and black.
Dappled dreams, O river, you give us.
Radiant, you will be my green beginning.
Gentle lover of my long exile.

II.  Eight years later—1999

A gift of sky, this river.  
Her trawl, serpentine and slow,
indolently starves wind down the canyon.
You and I—who watch such different stars—
draw back in the light of hidden selves. 

With the space of a breath 
between us, we gaze into the river.
In a flash we see them: cutthroat trout.
They turn and swivel, 
seek out nearby pools to spawn.

We vacillate between boundaries of the mind—
impulse and spirit.
(Our ongoing conversation cut short too soon.)  
Like the trout, we travel light, 
and disassembling at appointed times.  

Cool and complete in their resilience, 
trout paint a sovereign lie
we might believe.  
They live out the slippery cadence. 
Old friend, we live, and hesitating, die—
in secret 
our illusions we implausibly deny.

LINDA SWANBERG's work has appeared in Muddy River Poetry Review, The Cape Rock, The Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Owen Wister Review, Iodine Poetry Journal, The Old Red Kimono, Steam Ticket, The Texas Review, Carquinez Poetry Review, Talking River, California Quarterly, The Griffin, The Distillery, River Oak Review, Aries, Pearl, ellipsis…literature and art, Front Range Review, HeartLodge, Lalitamba, Pennsylvania English, Quiddity International Literary Journal, RE:AL, riverSedge, Inscape Journal, The South Carolina Review, Weber: The Contemporary West, Willow Review, and Euphony. Her poem “Heron Island, 1966” was awarded the Willow Review Award. 

The Adirondack Review