National Poetry Month: Maggie Schwed

Here at Black Lawrence Press we are celebrating National Poetry Month with a poem a day, featuring a total of 30 authors from our list. Today’s featured poet is Maggie Schwed, author of the forthcoming poetry collection Driving to the Bees.
White Pelican
            Another trick of memory—  it’s not the past
The first time the china-eyed dog ran
from the chicken house toward me
somebody whistled him off.
One morning, out of the dust
it leaped to my face
& fastened on.
Jack’s dog.  Jack shot him.  Threw his body in the river.
At supper, there was the rifle, over the doorway.
Jack said grace.  My gory cheeks
stained the napkin.
          —not the past that changes but our relation to it
The summer a skinned lamb
dripped on the hook inside the porch
I knew its name.
Be quick with the door
Jack said.  (Because of the flies.)
I didn’t know I knew its name
until it wouldn’t come, until
the tall grass never parted.
Once Jack picked up a snake from the creek
& gave it to me.
But the snake rose up
from the tail where I held it
where he gave it to me
& came at my hand.
          & consequently the story we tell ourselves,
Hold him by the ears, said Jack.
I didn’t see any ears.
He didn’t give me anything after that.
         the one we are— that is the thing that changes.
My turn
to climb down to the river
boulder by boulder, easing in—
I’ll stay
a long while in its obsession,
its cold & clear self
a way to see
the children again
& now
the white pelican.
IMG_1330Maggie Schwed’s poems have appeared in Western Humanities Review, Witness, Raritan, Southwest Review, Commonweal, Pleiades, Barrow Street, Beloit Poetry Journal, and other magazines, on-line publications, and anthologies.   A finalist for the 2006 and 2009 Morton Marr Poetry Prize (Southwest Review) and for the 2008 Erskine J. Poetry Prize (Smartish Pace), she is winner of The Malahat Review’s 2011 Long Poem Contest.  Her chapbook, Out of Season, was published in 2008 by Finishing Line Press.  She reviews for Pleiades, Blackbird, and Smartish Pace.  Her master’s degree is from the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought.  She lives with her husband in New York City, where she taught high-school English and adult literacy while her children were growing up.  She is a farm hand in livestock with the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in New York.  Her first full-length book of poems, Driving to the Bees, will be published by Black Lawrence Press in 2014.  Her second manuscript, A Simple Hunger, has been a finalist in several recent competitions.