When the hawk struck the ground
a bounding deer ran from the field
in its place.
The crowned girl on the scarred birch
lifted like tall grass through snow
beside the river eddy.
Up the hill a man dressed as me
nodded without speaking
then turned his shadow back to the road.
Twilight of rifle fire,
grey colors sounded the empty vast
beyond temple ridge.
I climbed from the gorge’s throat
in the body of a horse
at the sign of the deepening water.
Before the Dark
Wild turkey and coyote tracks weave a path
through the forest snow
to the witch tree carved with marks
as red brush thrust up through the white earth.
Listening to the river deep blue
beneath the slate cliffs,
I counted grey hours fading through prayer,
the sky mirrored these void colors.
The blue river deep rushing over grey rocks
and the snow on the hill speaks
a dirge for the slain carried away
to become a fertile ground.
The feeding creek struggled up from the ice
steaming naked to change in the cold air
for a grimoire bell
as the moon raised herself before the dark.
Under the blue shroud
I am going to row
the tidal water
around cemetery island.
The osprey flies
for Elizabeth Caroline,
I scraped the salt
with a blade
from the oarlock,
her loving heart to turn.
Fire in the trees
beyond the waves
kept this wilderness
alive in a handwriting.
John Swain lives in Louisville, Kentucky. Red Paint Hill published his first collection, Ring the Sycamore Sky.