The Howling Lake
The black lake roiled holding the morning sky
with wolf howls moving from the swamp woods
and then into silence.
I found the snarling dogs denned in my arms
like a hollow log
as the red sun flooded through the unchanging.
The wind and light and water becomes the blood
taught to offer
the jaws of one being we have always shared.
My palm curved with the rocks on the ground
passing endless ages in a moment’s world,
the trees bent gleaming the day’s changes.
A single flame smudges the crystal lantern glass
until the land is dark,
I continued to listen alone in the rain shallows.
Above Cowle’s Bog
The dune lowers into ice dunes before the lake,
I crossed a frozen pond before the sandy climb,
dried reeds lent the only golden color.
Thunderclaps of lake waves crash on the ice slopes
with the white moon hanging in the day above
as the spindrift freezes in gull wings raising the hill
with a scattering crown.
Water flowed grey and blue beneath the hollow,
I crawled down the sharp on hands with scraping boots
numbed from the winter sky and tired.
I will not speak for hours
keeping the wind that carries the snow along the beach,
I taste the metal of blood.
Evening casts the rare white cedar in a lunar blue
with the stillness broken by running deer,
I fell again in the cold deep grave till spring.
The atlas blackened in opening sun,
coyote and quail,
I bathed in dry lavender.
Light fires the mystic heart I sought
and denied my Christ
for the hardening earth we are.
A hawk hid in juniper as we kissed,
the dreamed Kathleen,
a trampled gateway yawns
for the ram on a South Dakota hill.
The road turns a diamondback coil,
I spit the poison from my wrist
and rubbed grey sage
to follow the lightning northward.
John Swain lives in Louisville, Kentucky. Red Paint Hill published his first collection, Ring the Sycamore Sky.