Elisabeth C. Swim


Eupnea, another name for easeful breathing
Tree songs layer on wind over train horns, iron bearings’ rumbles, soft-wave tire quartets haul tons of metal, airplanes moan overhead: life continues during this quiet withdrawal, strategy of microbial war in which human breath is the battlefield
ground, the possession of which profers great advantage to either side is contentious ground*
Eupnea now seems even more luxurious than before, though I have at times wished that mine would cease. (Men.)
I am someone who forgets who I am without hearing my own voice. Vibrations of what is important to me express themselves even when too dear to me for words. Birds sing for the same and different reasons.
ground that can only be saved by immediate combat is desperate ground **
The people who make coffee and sell tacos are happy to see me when I brave a distant encounter to pick something up. Without the commerce of dailiness I might not see another soul and in that case I do not trust myself not to surrender my breathing breath.
Tzu, Sun: The Art of War, Part 11:4; ** ibid. Part 11:10

Spider lilies shoot upside-down, ground stars in the swamp meadow
even when lost in a briar forest
stuck between a creeping vine and a pin oak
Hank the horse prunes branches, creepers
with the pieces of moon in his mouth
we lost the trail an hour ago I am out of my depth
I machete my body on twining thorns from the ground
branches bounce across an opening in the trees
on another day I would giggle ride them see saw solitaire
right now I need water like a new parent needs sleep
I have no map just Hank’s lead rope and all ten toes, too, until
he cartilage crushes right foot pinky and it drops out of sense range
when we get out of this subtropical tangle I will find some root beer
root beer calms me down, tells me there is enough time, money, legacy
every time we drink it together mom says
my minister great grandfather brewed his own
I want to drink root beer like Hank mows grass
between wild-tailed spider lilies, patch by patch
he kisses mud around mouthfuls of groundcover
lifts his head, nudges my shoulders where my
human arms can’t reach to scratch

California native Elisabeth Commanday Swim moved to Houston in 2008 to be editor of Houston Grand Opera’s Opera Cues. Her poems are live in care of Defunkt, Thimble and The Local Train Magazines as well as the Gentle Hour, Intercultural Press and High Shelf Press. She has appeared with Words and Art Houston at the Contemporary Arts Museum and the Menil Collection and Thin Air Magazine. She published previously under the name Eliza Swan and she is a therapeutic in-home music teacher.

%d bloggers like this: