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Jacket 18 — August 2002   |   # 18  Contents   |   Homepage   |  Catalog   |

Todd Swift

Two poems

Autumn For Beginners

Budapest is an Autumn For Beginners.
I now walk where my foreign town
meets its own departure, in my leaving
of it. A city of fatalistic girls, sullen
waiters, indifferent merchants
and lights across the Chain Bridge.
It is late into my extraneous home.
All the angels have converted to Islam.

The archaic baths pour out their languid
odours of natural radiation, minerals,
as bald men, gross with children of fat,
displace the vaporous waters, crying
Shah Mat! to their sweating colleagues
in the Rudas. Elsewhere, walls known to
50-year-old bullets stand, houses saddled
with grief, but these anguished city-dwellers

refrain from departure, even as they continue
to push against my luggage, as the train
steams like a Turkish Bath, these lonely
indolent, sensuously tragic Magyars
pressing against the glass of my nostalgia.
I pass between the new, lessening days
like a thief between the bars, just to use
the stolen recollections like a bank I have

invested my body into, a saved memory —
lusciously treasure hours I still possess —
to behave as if the gold-leaf and the shit
of these hurt districts were mine to keep —
even as the locomotive breaks this fantasia
with its meticulous tap-tapping on the rails
like a dry accounting of distance’s actuality —
indeed, the facticity of the about-to-go is a

sensitive spot on the heart of all public clocks...
I embrace the disappeared angels like a cloak
of borrowed books, black and leather-bound,
whose owners, having died, wish them back,
through dreams only I may interpret —
abandoned librarian of their longing.
Budapest, I contain you and your signatures,
each battered copy of your dog-eared history —

every soured, critical, published date — even as
I refuse, in resemblance, to engage your lean
desirable contortionists, ideal asses, ravishing
ballerinas, shy beggars, ruthless tram-drivers,
traumatised, indefinite lovers, your swooning
engineers, maudlin cooks, grandiose salesmen,
cruel vendors of tobacco, stale magazines,
and moonlighting purveyors of nakedness

in all its guises. So I will take your Duna
with me, as it goes, like an arch-criminal,
gold flooding into dawn’s true dull-white —
the leaden silver of appearing light, over
an embittered parliament, converted kings —
showing the belated opulence of blindness
in all descended, later, evacuated, October things,
such as emptied revolutions and crossed avenues.

— Budapest, October 16, 2001

The Bewilderments Of The Eyes

I materialise in the corner, forgotten now
these fourteen weeks of our long difference,
to linger suddenly in the mid-morning shadow

made by furniture you arranged here, and find
a sleeping person recognisable as my once-loved
one — your scar from the operation still disturbing

despite it being an arousing property to behold
on such otherwise unmarked skin; of course,
I know you well, inside and out, so I am unafraid,

seeing no stranger present. To arrive by fire,
to step out of a wall, and be invisible, is gruelling,
and extremely strange on the heart, but worth

the worst means imaginable, which it costs,
for I will pay for these transports I am beginning
to operate daily — as all who venture towards light

find unexpected heat, at the point where knowing
is the start of the end of knowledge, a loss instead.
To have been allowed this close to your bed was

once natural, even mundane, though never quite —
more like a prescription filled again and again.
My limited arrangements based on finite grains,

time, and the deal-maker, see to it this breach
is unstable as water, and less likely to sustain
someone swimming in dimensions not of their own

world. So I disappear as quickly as I entered,
in difficult stages, a wavering fold of a man, aware
of the arbitrary choices that makes old love occult.

Todd Swift is a Montreal-born (1966) poet, editor, screenwriter and impresario whose work has appeared on stage from Tokyo to Edinburgh, Rio to Panama City, Budapest to New York, on CBC radio, ABC and Ireland’s RTE — and on the CD Millennium Cabaret. Todd Swift’s writing has appeared widely in Canadian and international publications, including En Route, The Saturday Post, Himself (Ireland), Gargoyle (US/UK), The Budapest Sun and Cordite (Australia). A member of the League of Canadian Poets and the Writers Guild of Canada he has had scripts produced for HBO, Fox and Paramount, including Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation. Swift’s recent book, Budavox: poems 1990-1999 (DC Books, 1999), was hailed by the National Post for its “sexy bravado”. Major Irish poet Derek Mahon has called Swift “a voice for our time”. Swift has a number of publications forthcoming, including Short Fuse: The Global Anthology of New Fusion Poetry (Rattapallax Press, New York, summer 2002) — as well as an upcoming CD release with composer Tom Walsh, The Envelope, Please, from the Wired on Words label.

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