By Wally Swist



To be on,
for it to be one of your better days,
for it to culminate
in knowing, beyond a doubt,
that placing your hands in the air
just at the right moment,
so that you can bring them together
and softly palm
the trapped sparrow flying around
the bookstore café
is to experience a moment
of the remarkable, then to step
outside to open your hands
to release the bird
and to watch it fly up
over the languishing blossoms
of the hanging cherry tree,
is to also release that
wilderness within yourself
back into the open air.


Seeing whatever it was
that had darted in front of your eyes
out of the barnyard at dusk
reminds you of the bat
in the auditorium at the book signing
that flew up above the heads
of the onlookers during a break,
then dodged coffee urns
and fruit Danish while
knocking over stacks of paper coffee cups
before you could pull off a tablecloth
from a free table,
and corner the bat, urging it through
a series of hallways that led to a storeroom,
where you threw the red cloth into
the air, and the bat flew into it,
as it landed onto the checkered
linoleum floor. Kneeling down
to bunch the cloth loosely about
the bat, you could feel the nervous
twitching of its wings
beneath the fiber of the cotton
weave, and walked it outside,
where you tossed the tablecloth up
to release the bat
in the falling rain, upon which
it chose to attach itself
to the crenellated concrete
of the outside wall of the building,
blinking its eyes in the freedom
of a new day, adjusting
its sight to everything, all of which
appeared to be nothing less than remarkable.

Wally Swist’s books include The Map of Eternity (Shanti Arts, 2018), Singing for Nothing: Selected Nonfiction as Literary Memoir (The Operating System, 2018), and On Beauty: Essays, Reviews, Fiction, and Plays (Adelaide Books. 2018). His book A Bird Who Seems to Know Me: Poems Regarding Birds & Nature was the winner of the 2018 Ex Ophidia Press Poetry Prize and published in 2019. Forthcoming books include Evanescence: Selected and New Poems (2019) and The Bees of the Invisible (2020), also from Shanti Arts of Brunswick, Maine.