Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site

The wake



Selected poems





To be on,

for it to be one of your better days,

for it to culminate

in knowing, beyond a doubt,

that placing your hands in the air

just at the right moment,

so that you can bring them together

and softly palm

the trapped sparrow flying around

the bookstore café

is to experience a moment

of the remarkable, then to step

outside to open your hands

to release the bird

and to watch it fly up

over the languishing blossoms

of the hanging cherry tree,

is to also release that

wilderness within yourself

back into the open air.



Seeing whatever it was

that had darted in front of your eyes

out of the barnyard at dusk

reminds you of the bat

in the auditorium at the book signing

that flew up above the heads

of the onlookers during a break,

then dodged coffee urns

and fruit Danish while

knocking over stacks of paper coffee cups

before you could pull off a tablecloth

from a free table,

and corner the bat, urging it through

a series of hallway that lead to a storeroom,

where you threw the red cloth into

the air, and the bat flew into it,

as it landed onto the checkered

linoleum floor. Kneeling down

to bunch the cloth loosely about

the bat, you could feel the nervous

twitching of its wings

beneath the fiber of the cotton

weave, and walked it outside,

where you tossed the tablecloth up

to release the bat

in the falling rain, upon which

it chose to attach itself

to the crenellated concrete

of the outside wall of the building,

blinking its eyes in the freedom

of a new day, adjusting

its sight to everything, all of which

appeared to be nothing less than remarkable.




The wake

A child approaches the casket,

reaches within to try to lift

my folded hands, to make sure,

as she tells her mother later,

that I am not just sleeping.


Only a few attend the wake,

since, as a former supervisor,

who rather crudely expressed in

an annual employee review,

that I lived alone, didn't have


a family, and never owned,

or watched, a television.

Although there were those

I considered friends whom

I never met, but kept up with


by email, not many in the sparse

crowd sitting in the folding

chairs would even know what

local literati meant, since not

unlike Walt Whitman,


I tended friendships with those

whom I made felicitous contact

with at the grocery store,

the gas station, the post office;

and in keeping with this,


ah, there is my friend Mohammad,

the coffee shop owner, whom

anyone would call quite a splendid

man, whom I spoke with

nearly daily on my walk at


the mall, laying a rose beside me,

his double shot of kindness

still echoing into the next world,

Good morning, good morning,

as my spirit hovers nearby.





What greets you in the greenhouse

is what is perhaps the most

resplendent shade of purple orchid,


intergeneric genus of Chiapas,

Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras,

Cattilianthe Orchidaceae, that


is related to the Chocolate Drop,

who is named after its white-tipped

deep red petals, Volcano Queen;


and the Cattilianthe Jewel Box,

whose pure red is called Scherazade—

and what stories it must have to tell.


Cattilianthe, you announce yourself

as does the color priests wear during

Eastertide to ascribe devotion


to the Passion; or those women

elders, who wear this color

to announce their coming of age,


exponentially, to their beauty

in wisdom. The fragrance of this

orchid is sublime, a divine mist


of scent, which invokes the memory

of your lover, nonpareil, exquisite,

unlike any other, in a room that is lit


by mirrors, reflecting sky, whose

passages are filled with sunlight and

the migrations of flocks of birds,


always in flight, as you are, recalling

her presence, forever leaving

and retuning, returning and leaving.



Wally SwistWally Swist's books include Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love, The Daodejing: A New Interpretation, with David Breeden and Steven Schroeder, and Candling the Eggs. His forthcoming books are The Map of Eternity, Singing for Nothing: Selected Nonfiction as Literary Memoir, and On Beauty: Essays, Reviews, Fiction, and Plays.

Topic tags: poetry, Wally Swist



submit a comment

Existing comments

flying forever

Pam | 25 March 2019  

Such a beautiful beginning to this new day - thank you.

Richard | 26 March 2019  

simply great to read and relish, thank you

Helen Donnellan | 26 March 2019  

Enjoyed particularly The Wake. A lovely reflection.

Kerry Holland | 01 April 2019  

Similar Articles

That old Easter story

  • Paul Turley
  • 01 April 2019

What a poor showing. This collection of the desperate clinging to a dream so old it is just a tattered mumble for old men in the fading light. All myth and spittle.


Blind injustice on the job hunt circuit

  • Casey Hyde
  • 02 April 2019

When I attended a rare job interview, I would put a bow tie around my guide dog's neck to deflect some of the heat off me. The interviewer would ask questions that were of a chatty, personal nature — everything except questions about my qualifications. The only thing that seems to be holding me back is my vision impairment.