Confluence by Paul Swenson

Colorado River and Green River confluence NPS

Strange vibrations, east of coal country.
Black sky, dusted by filmy cirro-nebula.

Rumbling on a trestle, high above the Green,
train whistles legend’s high, lonesome sound.

Highest water in a decade, but river’s
calmed tonight, lapping in a little cove.

Noses streaked with sunblock, bodies
with Skin-so-Soft, hair silted with residue

of a day on the water, we’re children
on the verge of adolescence, adults on the verge

of longing. Our black-white- &-yellow tent
is pitched near the night light of the women’s room.

Beneath the cottonwood, Coke machine’s a shining totem
€”Liquid logos, little pockets of thirst, pulsing under glass.

Sipping Squirt in the dark, I see her yellow
hair €”the world’s last child entering nubility.

She turns briefly; we exchange greetings. Neck
straight, eyes resolute, she moves into the night.

Next evening, safe at home, convex
glass of TV screen brings news

of two old men who earlier that day
had accidentally turned their motorboat downstream.

Confused by rapids in a canyon
they call Cataract, their craft capsized.

Past the confluence of the Colorado with the Green, they died.


To read more of Paul’s verse, go here, here, and here.

To read the National Park Service incident report of this accident, go here.


Alone in the Desert by Paul Swenson

450px-Jimson_Weed_(Datura_inoxia),_opening_flower by Wmpearl

On her closet floor, what
looks like a dried flower €”
arrayed in a display of faded
glory (tendrils splayed
to welcome her) €”plays
tricks on the eye. Can’t
say what stops her

from picking it up. But
living alone in the desert,
under an endless sky,
gives even a dead tarantula
a florid allure. And out
the back door of her Virgin
hideaway, the iris

(orange, green and brown
growths) €”lovely or lurid
against the blue mouth
of Zion Canyon? Doesn’t
that one long stem, winding
through and out the top
of the photograph (grotesque
almost) €”belong in a Dali

painting? It seems to lean
to her, tempted by tender
flesh at her throat, where
a cluster of silver gems
gleams above a shadow
of décolleté. Hair, once black,
then gray, now white, reflects

ethereal light of distant stars.
When desert’s dark descends
and foxtail blends with stone,
is she lonely there? No, this
is her hour. Night-blooming
moonflower extends her roots
and turns her petals out.


If you would like to read more of Paul’s poetry and see his bio, go here and here.

Photo of moonflower (jimsom weed) flower by Wmpearl.

White Fire by Paul Swenson

Lightning by Thomas_Bresson resized

After the electrical storm
rattles the windows
and spikes the sky ocher

and I go out in the dark
to douse the garden hose
superfluously watering the roses

a shock
to be blinded
by moon
full in the face
in the closed corridor
at the side of my house

and it is clear to me
like cool white fire
the you I know
still glows
in dark somewhere


To read Paul Swenson’s bio and more of his poetry on WIZ, go here.

Photo by Bresson Thomas.

Degrees of Separation by Paul Swenson

440px-Ullstein-Thorak-Mutter_Erde_fec grave marker

Do the dead know when we speak of them?
Cell phone to my ear, I hear Alex say, €œYes,
every time we say their names €”it is like food
to them. € I’m in Liberty Park, watching

a gray squirrel negotiate the irregular bark
of a broad, green locust tree. €œYou
know, € he says to me. €œI didn’t think
to mention this before, because it happens

naturally, but Michael sometimes comes
to me at night. € Wait, I say, you mean my sister,
Michael? (Dead ten years this month.) €œYes,
your sister, € he says. What can I say? Since

month is May, led to recall €” today is birthday
of another sister, May, twenty-two years dead.
And at the overlook in Logan Canyon,
just this afternoon, a devotee cleared snow

to fix a plaque and make a space to raise
her poem, €œAbove Bear Lake, € wherein
she wrote of scabs of lovers’ notes,
welts inscribed in aspen trees. What

is this spell that rules the day? Another
poet, another cell phone call. My friend
Cheryl’s voice €”breaks, cuts in and out,
as she descends a hill by bicycle

in Carolina €”filled with distant ache
and doubt. She’s let the gremlins out
Pandora’s Box and cannot lock them
in again. At least, the living’s wounds

eventually reveal to us. Of the dead,
so far away, we only speculate. Alex,
do they hear us when we pray for them?
€œThey pray for us, € he says.


Paul’s first book of poems, Iced at the Ward, Burned at the Stake: And Other Poems, was published in 2003 by Signature Books. His second collection, In Sleep: And Other Poems, will be published in the spring of 2012 by Dream Garden Press.