Poem of the Week | November 03, 2009

This week we’re excited to feature a poem by Brian Swann from our most recent issue, Demons (32.3). Brian Swann has published many books in a number of genres, including seven books of poetry, such as Autumn Road (Ohio State UP) and Snow House (Pleiades/LSU Press); five collections of short fiction, including The Plot of the Mice (Capra Press); and several children’s books, including A Basket Full of White Eggs (Orchard/Franklin Watts). He has translated sixteen volumes of poetry, and served as an editor for a number of volumes on Native American Literature, including Voices from Four Directions: Contemporary Translations of the Native Literatures of North America (Univ. of Nebraska), and Algonquian Spirit: Contemporary Translations of the Algonquian Literatures of North America (Univ. of Nebraska). His most recent book is Born in the Blood: Essays on Translating Native American Literature (forthcoming with Univ. of Nebraska). Swann is a Professor of English at Cooper Union.

The Procession

Last night, in the smoke, the moon had a seizure,
wobbling so you couldn’t understand it. Flowers
on the hillsides are still confused, flying off
in the remaining wind. Peasants are following
a funeral procession, heading for the horizon
lost in blue lightning. The dead man’s feet
point backward to the maize fields where he was born.
Ignazio whispers, “He said ‘Don’t leave me to die
on the side of the road. Don’t leave me at night with
my eyes covered between two policemen. Take me home.'”
A dog gnaws a bone in the dirt. No sign of policía.
Later, in the café he tells me he.d once read in an old book
about a fountain in the rocks where the water pours out
and becomes green, and about a turquoise spring
that sings between pebbles and the bell-bird responds.
The song of the water, he said, sounds like tambourines.
“Where is this place?” “It’s called Tonacatlalpan.
Only for princes, owners of the world, a world only
for princes, nothing for the vassals, the common folk,
those who grieve, those who suffer torment and misfortune
on earth.” The procession passes, and the air is suddenly
clear as glass. Moctezuma, I’ve heard, had many mirrors
in his palaces, so he was everywhere and nowhere,
exaggerated, diminished, getting lost in them,
in himself, and the mirrors broke.