Todd Swift ~ Five Poems


It was never quite the kiss or weather.
We fell down after reading together
Simply since love is a matter of fact
At Easter; it often follows the act

Of indiscipline, the shifting feathers
That transform a swan; bars of leather
Were not our scene, but we attacked
Ideas of unison with underage tact.

We ached to wake up as F. Kafka;
Cherry-balmed lips the morning after.
It was sub-zero that April in Montreal;
The metro was blue; the turnstile

Saw us part, Walkman’s synchronised
To Orbison’s dream tears in our eyes.

Half A Cup Is Better Than One

The sun of course and being guided by Amazon
Into Tweens in Music, not Books. Flannery
O’Connor wrote to Alfred about unbelief.
I aim for chastity, spill my seed at HDLove.
How was it once we met and courted
Before the zip of the instant cock
Arriving in the palm like Christ?
I ride to my end on an ass
And wave at each frond
Fondly, like a friend
To man and beast.
Go slow, go on.
Lift me, Lord.
I pray up.
I am in
The way
Of need.
Bring a chalice
To my sensuous
Lips. Bill me monthly
For my insatiable greed.
The flies raft on my semen
Like a damned umbrella drink
Was in the making. I swizzle in
So many ways, my soul is slickness
Itself. I have arm-wrestled unarmed
Men and downed scorpions in one, like
Bond when he was at his very lowest ebb.
Satan gave me the part of my life in his web.
I play myself but this time famous on NYC smack


I sit in the sun like a Cape Canaveral Man
who never got the blast-off chance, now
burns in the Florida penumbra, muscle
slipping like chicken thrown to predators

on a farm for the green monsters that thrive;
sip a Coors and yearn for flight, pulse-race
expertly controlled after many simulations.
The cost of time feels like this delayed space,

subtle countdown to less and less, as her
polka dot summer dress gently lands
on the dumb motel’s inanimate floor –
a place without conviction or ideology,

just cold half-clean thin sheets marred
and jarred by off-hand sex administered
by the hands of day visitors to the Centre.
No craters pock the race to explore here,

all as smooth as virgin territory; no crust.
No one now alive swims or swam in that
dead pool fenced off like a bomb testing site.
Failure to launch a badge, a joke, a way back

to reclaiming what was lost, what never
returned, the opposite of velocity is premature
ejaculation; the rocket that never sped off
the base, piercing the bright blue Americana

of history. Sick to experience what I can’t,
my life is a series of skin flicks without cum shots.
My name has become a synonym for
the ones who don’t get to walk above the rest.

Put my loyalty to the test, every day, by living.
Waking is an agreement to go through motions.
Check. Check. Flip the switches. Red dials.
The beeps and clicks that summon technology

to become the Merlin of the age and transfer
power to what is barely seen, the flung empyrean.
I become a thing in this everyday sun
called the almost-ran, the other guy, the beaten

unemployed model in t-shirt and Ray-Bans,
model for a way of being good by training
to go out of the atmosphere in split seconds.
Still fearless though greying, young enough

to conquer or kill; brave enough, crew-cut fresh,
half-ripped in the shade, still a danger man.
Still in this rusting deck chair at 8 am, hung
over from her, a bottle of Jack and nothingness

collapsing into a routine as bright as embers
after the war-king has been burnt, high ceremony.
Kennedy was the one, handsome energy intact,
the capsule shot to shit in the debris of contact

with the heat of command. I never said: now,
the one to hurtle and shaken rise up to harm
deferred: though prepared to be that holy, alarmed.
No poet with Nobel, no cat bored with cream,

playmates my award, the grins of kids afraid
to ask where Armstrong is. I consider the remote,
too close to it for comfort, preferment of the moon
not my permitted Muse; fallen from the royal land.

Able to smear red lipstick, clutch the wives
of those whose climbing dreams blasted true
onto their born cvs, whose lives went far away,
men who are the symbol of who they chose to be.

Abandoned on the lowest height next to greatness,
I turn to the next bottle and the next, flicking caps
out over the chlorine scum, watching for what sinks
and knowing in my red veins what could climb, climb.


It wasn’t invented yesterday, Death,
it casts a long shadow. I know
where we are going, partly
and it is to dust, ash, awful stuff.

Who hasn’t been awake
and worried about our fragility?
My father, in his coffin, broke
any sense I’d had that life was good.

His stillness, in the midst
of things, was far too complete
to be much comfort. God promises
some form of return, but not bodily,

not after the dust has dissipated.
When we walk the streets marked
out as fools in our desperate hope
of life everlasting, we are

performing an act of instability.
We are throwing our living forward
into death, and by dying while alive
are making death and life a mixture

like the paste used to heal wounds.
The flimsy cross of coal on my skull
blows off in the wind, smudged
like newsprint. But it is a story

made of a paper that burns up
each year, and each year reappears,
to be burnt again. Seasonal, despair
turning like the sun to faith,

as flowers have to press again
to scatter the earth, to invade the light.
Our bodies broadcast our deaths,
deaths predicted at the moment

we unsheltered from the womb.
Death is a broken comb of honey,
its incomplete hive buzzing
with the sweetness of something else,

the further fields of stamen and pistil
awaiting fecundity. Death starts
like a starter’s pistol a race
to the line where all that disintegrates

embodies the greatness of our birth:
we walk constantly dying upright
because we are possessed
of what cannot die, what ignites,

the match-head blue striking of soul.

Swipe Right

No point harassing the Niceday highlighter.
The busted bust of Palas in the palace, alas,
Is all the marbles you get in Poetrydom,
More or less. Poetry tends to get, fast,

Unfriended, in this pacey age of sub/dom.
My poetry job ended at half-time, ushered
Out with the blinded majorettes (pom-poms,
Falling). What remains on the field are

Meatheads bulleting each other’s hurtlocker
Torsos. Ever rooted for a side you shouldn’t
Have, mate? Taliban verse was reviewed
I gather. Favourably? Not sure.

Music is, to them, over-rated, while drones
Rake down. Wake me before you drown-drown.
My partner joined a LGBTQ
Group at her investment bank to be inclusive;

Or rather, more inclusive. I felt a cold shoulder
At the wheel of corporate ownership.
I remain impossibly pre-facebook, queer,
But never more bisexualist than Tiresias.

Money, meanwhile, is comfortable eyeless,
Communes with fags, hags, and stags,
So long as they hold moneybags between
Their legs. History ended again yesterday

When we made peace with Iran. We now means
China too. I waited my whole middle youth
For Pixies to release new material and when
They do, no Deal. Poetry is a gang of thugs

Unable to move units at WH Smith,
Whose verbal skills, like Toby Jugs, shape
National mirth in streams of urinal force.
Thus, when one drinks a poet’s piss, we really

Toast healthier sales of all the horsecrap prose
Our novelist friends managed to e-book.
I learned around an oak table at school
That spanking fiction pays if the wood is birch.

The greatest living poet in our tongue is Hill.
I too take the occasional pill. My soul is ill.
It sobs like a fat man at a slim WC door.
My voice broke last week, the same time

As my will to compete with the love brigade.
That’s the arseholes with keyboards, iPhones.
Having sold my soul at the demonic crossroads
To Harold Bloom, I should have swerved

To celebrity, but he said, look, lack
Is what poesis ravenously adores to crave,
Feed on what you don’t get paid. Again.
Poesis is how you don’t get made a man

By picking up a pen, friend, in this mean town.
The canon, he informed me as only he can
In Latin, Greek, Hebrew and gobbledygook,
Knows that for the bard, being ranked A-list

Is like being sun-kissed with wax wings.
Avoid being classed too high, drowsy,
Drugged or straight edge. Compose
Yourself on a thin ledge, and don’t jump

When your many followers invite you to fist
The ferro-concrete floor with brain matter.
In short, don’t die when the Commander-
In-chief says take them, take them all

And out of the sky falling like Tennyson hawks
Or falcons or eagles, crooked out of some
Droning hook of fate, meaning clashes
Cymbals, to detonate a small meeting of things

That might normally not have met, like bodies
And fire, ice and wire, weddings and hate.
The resulting shit smear is drain of life incarnate
Delivered from the man who claimed to be good,

Which is just the way they talk in the neighbourhood.
I bend to pick up old women, and pieces of their
Old men. I am stooped with a rushing loss
Of faith such as blood streaming from

An artery might appear to be. My
Belief in faith is at a total low ebb.
These wedding shrouds that are my eyeballs
Offer as a timely gift obliteration’s

Pall, a purple answer to shade
When arterial spillage is waste.
Taste demands we pay victims of a quake.
I swipe right to slake my desire

To kiss every face I can see on my screen
For free, or if they give A service, a hundred.
Don’t dread the ban on the dark net,
Margins peddle images out of Spiritus Mundi,

All those in Westminster Abbey
Rise to bow. Nevermore lick any firm’s helmet
Of flesh or blood. My dick a platinum catalyst
And the rest is fusion, confused as history.

© Todd Swift

British-Canadian poet, university teacher, editor, critic, and publisher based in the United Kingdom. Currently Dr Swift is Senior Lecturer in Writing, Institute of Humanities and Creative Arts, University of Worcester.