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Wally Swist

Rats in the Barn

As O'Keeffe forced herself to watch sidewinders
in the desert, she became inured to the undulating of her own viscera.

Old Earl, storyteller and itinerant handyman, had a similar challenge
every time he tried to quit drinking. My fear was no worse

as I walked to the barn every morning to gather brushes, ladders,
and cans of paint; to feel cold sweat bead as I listened to the rats

drag themselves across the warped boards that floored the hay loft;
to know the shadows had eyes. Only after the job was finished

and all the shutters were rehung just a day before first snow,
Old Earl announced he had shot one in the head, Big as a cat, he said.

To Psyche

What she awakens in me is that I do recognize
her face. The light in those eyes radiant
above what is breathless. Her face changes
like the moon's phases: the crescent this morning
shining through mist, Long Mountain
deep in clouds and the dawn rising.
When we know what we want, it is just like this,
this not knowing, but thinking we know;
and all of it disappearing in the light around us.

Wally Swist's most recent books are Mount Toby Poems (Timberline Press, 2009), issued in a letterpress limited edition,
and a scholarly monograph, The Friendship of Two New England Poets, Robert Frost and Robert Francis (The Edwin Mellen
Press, 2009). contact