Water Picture

- 1913-1989
In the pond in the park 
all things are doubled:
Long buildings hang and 
wriggle gently. Chimneys 
are bent legs bouncing 
on clouds below. A flag 
wags like a fishhook 
down there in the sky.

The arched stone bridge 
is an eye, with underlid 
in the water. In its lens 
dip crinkled heads with hats 
that don't fall off. Dogs go by, 
barking on their backs. 
A baby, taken to feed the 
ducks, dangles upside-down, 
a pink balloon for a buoy.

Treetops deploy a haze of 
cherry bloom for roots, 
where birds coast belly-up 
in the glass bowl of a hill; 
from its bottom a bunch 
of peanut-munching children 
is suspended by their 
sneakers, waveringly.

A swan, with twin necks 
forming the figure 3, 
steers between two dimpled 
towers doubled. Fondly 
hissing, she kisses herself, 
and all the scene is troubled:
water-windows splinter, 
tree-limbs tangle, the bridge 
folds like a fan.

More by May Swenson

Blue

Blue, but you are Rose, too,
and buttermilk, but with blood
dots showing through.
A little salty your white
nape boy-wide.  Glinting hairs
shoot back of your ears' Rose
that tongues like to feel
the maze of, slip into the funnel,
tell a thunder-whisper to.
When I kiss, your eyes' straight
lashes down crisp go like doll's
blond straws.  Glazed iris Roses,
your lids unclose to Blue-ringed
targets, their dark sheen-spokes
almost green.  I sink in Blue-
black Rose-heart holes until you
blink.  Pink lips, the serrate
folds taste smooth, and Rosehip-
round, the center bud I suck.
I milknip your two Blue-skeined
blown Rose beauties, too, to sniff
their berries' blood, up stiff
pink tips.  You're white in 
patches, only mostly Rose,
buckskin and saltly, speckled
like a sky.  I love your spots,
your white neck, Rose, your hair's
wild straw splash, silk spools
for your ears.  But where white
spouts out, spills on your brow
to clear eyepools, wheel shafts
of light, Rose, you are Blue.

Little Lion Face

Little lion face
I stopped to pick
among the mass of thick
succulent blooms, the twice

streaked flanges of your silk
sunwheel relaxed in wide
dilation, I brought inside,
placed in a vase.  Milk

of your shaggy stem
sticky on my fingers, and
your barbs hooked to my hand,
sudden stings from them 

were sweet.  Now I'm bold
to touch your swollen neck,
put careful lips to slick
petals, snuff up gold

pollen in your navel cup.
Still fresh before night
I leave you, dawn's appetite
to renew our glide and suck.

An hour ahead of sun
I come to find you.  You're
twisted shut as a burr,
neck drooped unconscious,

an inert, limp bundle,
a furled cocoon, your
sun-streaked aureole
eclipsed and dun.

Strange feral flower asleep
with flame-ruff wilted,
all magic halted,
a drink I pour, steep

in the glass for your
undulant stem to suck.
Oh, lift your young neck,
open and expand to your

lover, hot light.
Gold corona, widen to sky.
I hold you lion in my eye
sunup until night.

That the Soul May Wax Plump

     "He who has reached the highest degree of
     emptiness will be secure in repose."
     —A Taoist saying

My dumpy little mother on the undertaker's slab
had a mannequin's grace. From chin to foot
the sheet outlined her, thin and tall. Her face
uptilted, bloodless, smooth, had a long smile. 
Her head rested on a block under her nape,
her neck was long, her hair waved, upswept. But later,
at "the viewing," sunk in the casket in pink tulle,
an expensive present that might spoil, dressed
in Eden's green apron, organdy bonnet on,
she shrank, grew short again, and yellow. Who
put the gold-rimmed glasses on her shut face, who
laid her left hand with the wedding ring on
her stomach that really didn't seem to be there
under the fake lace?

Mother's work before she died was self-purification,
a regimen of near starvation, to be worthy to go 
to Our Father, Whom she confused (or, more aptly, fused)
with our father, in Heaven long since. She believed
in evacuation, an often and fierce purgation,
meant to teach the body to be hollow, that the soul
may wax plump. At the moment of her death, the wind
rushed out from all her pipes at once. Throat and rectum
sang together, a galvanic spasm, hiss of ecstasy.
Then, a flat collapse. Legs and arms flung wide,
like that female Spanish saint slung by the ankles
to a cross, her mouth stayed open in a dark O. So,
her vigorous soul whizzed free. On the undertaker's slab, she
lay youthful, cool, triumphant, with a long smile.