Curtis Bauer

Landscape with Swallows



 I am in Iowa, on the edge of town

 and all the space in the world

 will never help. Or the sunlight.

 Or the omelets I make for my wife

 so she can remember

 La Gran Via and Las Ramblas.


 She wants to be a bird

 flying above Barcelona

 until she tires.

 She wants to sit on someone’s sill

 and watch the streets

 as if from their eyes.


 She hardly sleeps.

 She moves her hands in circles above her head.


 Her baths are long.


 The bed and her shoes

 are too big. Each night she tells me

 I might wake and find feathers on our sheets.




 She has grown fearful of sunrise.

 It melts the frost on the foxtail,

 discolors the sky,

 the power plant steam. She says


 the squirrels in the oak

 have started to treat her like a bird;

 they are aloof; she is offended.




 Life would never be as it had been

 when the birds with silver-blue bellies

 flitted and glided from chimneys to trees.


 They played with shadows

 all afternoon like a child surrounded by space,

 grass and time. A day to sit


 and watch swallows fly: forgotten or never

 known, beauty flying,                                                                     (no stanza break)

 shimmers above the ground, radiant.




 She wore a feather

 hat. Her favorite

 color, a rush

 of black, red and blue—

 just like moments

 before sunset.

 She thinks her soul

 is filled with the beauty

 of what remains

 after it has gone, after

 the sun has set, and dark,

 like the tail tips

 of swallows,

 covers us.




 Now she wears her favorite gown—blue,

 sleek echoes of dark, the back open

 as if leaving room for wings.

 Her feet have become invisible.

 She no longer listens when I say

 I don’t have feathers on my sleeve.

 The air around her

 becomes sacred when she sleeps.

 Her eyes are always moving,

 her lungs beat urgently.

 The shower water glides off her skin.

 She has become small

 enough to fit in my hand. She fears

 she hears noises unlike other noises.




 She stands on the corner

 of Elm and Birch,

 skin shimmering

 in front of the sun,

 watching the maples,

 the traffic thin,

 the sound of tree-hidden swallows.

 She picks at the threads

 clinging to her sleeves.


 The sun sets.


 The trees are silenced.                                                                              (no stanza break)

 Feathers the color of sky

 fall from the branches,

 black tipped as if singed

 by fire, as if mimicking

 the approach of night.




 Every morning I descend

 the steps so I can

 be here waiting for the sun to rise.

 At this moment

 I’d like

 to be shoes,

 the stretch

 of gravel roads,

 the dark, a plank gate

 slap against the barn,

 the smell of leather,

 of cattle, dung covered

 hay and straw,

 a speck of grain dust.

 The sky burns as if

 lit by shivering swallows,

 the tips of their tails.



From the poetry collection Fence Line (BkMk Press 2004)