John Swain's poetry tethers an internal stream, and unearths a serendipitous feeling. He possesses an eye and a heart that others do not; his writing is natural, raw, beautiful and melancholy in only the most devastating proportions.

He lives in Louisville, Kentucky. Swain's chapbooks, Prominences and Sinking of the Cloth, appeared from Flutter Press and Set Apart Before the World Was Made appeared from Calliope Nerve Media. Full of Crow published The Feathered Masks and Burnt Palmistry. Recently, erbacce press produced Handing the Cask. His newest chapbook, titled Fragments of Calendars is available through Thunderclap Press.

John's work has received nominations for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best of the Web.


Promise of Rivers

I heard you gather the rivers
into your arms like a healer,
then your arts turned dark like birds of prey
killing to be still unknown.
And then God becomes our entire thought
just as smoke defies the leaf
permitting us a human shape
knowing we could live in actual kindness.
Such is the promise of rivers
when rain is freed from sky,
then I will come to you quiet as a glass bell
wherever you may lay tonight.
The Sky Changed

Trees blackened the valley from the lightning fire
on the ridge I gazed at split pines of its beginning.
People before left a cairn, I added my stone prayer
then departed the charred staves like incense burnt,
I placed a handful of fallen leaves inside my boots.
The sky changed with cloud and hawk like autumn,
I remember your house set across the lakeshore
where blood river enters like our full commingling,
the rust signs indicate transplanted ancient graves.
The cold ground sends a running deer to the archer
whose arrow whirls in the void like a hunting bird,
gesturing peace I ate meat from my provided limbs.
The Harrow Succors

Winter lay
over the lake like a capsized sail,
I retreated into trees to escape the biting air
as the moon arose from wheat in a golden boat.
I know no timber wolves haunt this country,
but I wanted to gnaw you from off my ankle
and nourish my freedom with a warm blood.
I could not hide myself from this savage love
like a hatred keeping me on the face of earth,
the sky lent me darkness like a perfect armor.
The vines and thorns entwine like red sisters
I put to my lips
like the harrow succors the trembling ground.

From the Bottomland

The sandhill cranes arose from the bottomland clouding grey in their ancient music,
as I stood far above on a cold hill thinking this was the last migration before the rifle
returns east of the river.
And then the vanishing
into the land where I tracked a searcher’s footsteps in the snow toward the hermitage
and the place of stones,
the same frozen leaves and earth sounded when I followed him finding my own way. A girl danced like a bird
when time stilled circle
and sky was always night,
she was clean and wild.
I kept the pure air held close in my lungs like the fluttering of real wings full of blood.
Stones upon the Sheet

Vapor of roses perfumes your body
after the sun leapt from your throat
like a groaning beast.
Dawn charred us like the newborn,
I awoke inside an arch of splinters
and closed my eyes to your needle.
I will assuage my dying in private
with ointments and scented powder
while the oracles sleep in a trance.
You wrapped our bodies in your hair
like an animal transformed
and then laid stones upon the sheet.