Friday, September 1, 2023

"The Swing" by Don Paterson

The Swing

The swing was picked up for the boys, 
for the here-and-here-to-stay
and only she knew why it was
I dug so solemnly

I spread the feet two yards apart
and hammered down the pegs
filled up the holes and stamped the dirt
around its skinny legs

I hung the rope up in the air
and fixed the yellow seat
then stood back that I might admire
my handiwork complete

and saw within its frail trapeze
the child that would not come
of what we knew had two more days
before we sent it home

I know that there is nothing here
no venue and no host
but the honest fulcrum of the hour
that engineers our ghost

the bright sweep of its radar-arc
is all the human dream
handing us from dark to dark
like a rope over a stream

But for all the coldness of my creed
for all those I denied
for all the others she had freed
like arrows from her side

for all the child was barely here
and for all that we were over
I could not weigh the ghosts we are
against those we deliver

I gave the empty seat a push
and nothing made a sound
and swung between two skies to brush
her feet upon the ground

Source of the text – Don Paterson, Rain: Poems.  New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009, p. 6-7.

TJB: The absence of a child fills up the swing. Song-iambics & ballad verse sound child-like here; we hear the speaker’s grief, deeply sublimated.

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