David Swerdlow


A worn book
with a black jacket preserves
my thumbprint dulling
the cover’s finish, a one-off medallion

showing not possession
but love. There’s also
a stone my daughter carried
home from Bhutan, a monastery

on a cliffside painted
on the stone’s cold surface smoothed
by a river in which no one may swim
because it’s holy.

She gave me the stone
and it fits in my hand. It’s the size
of the mouse I hear
some nights running

the bedroom walls. Inside
the drawer, all the things
I cannot part with. My father’s voice
recorded on a tape I don’t know

if I still have the machine to play
and four pairs of his glasses
in black leather cases, even
a eulogy I don’t remember but keep

because what else can you do
with what honors the dead? My love
would like me to get rid of whatever
I don’t need if need is defined

by use, but it’s only a small table
and I’ve kept only what I find
sacred. If I float through
nights I never figured I could

survive, I’m working
on what’s holy, pinning it
to the ceiling that holds on
to nothing but the dark

I hear running
through everything I own–the old
coins, the pocketknife,
the tie-clip, the loss.


Return to Spring Issue Volume 11.2


David Swerdlow’s work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, American Literary Review, and many other distinguished journals. He has published two books of poetry with WordTech Editions: Bodies on Earth (2010) and Small Holes in the Universe (2003). His first novel, Television Man, was published last fall by Czykmate Productions. He teaches literature and creative writing at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.