Sit next to me, Brian Swann. Be my companion. I sense in you what’s missing from my life: a voice of reason, tranquility, unmistakable originality. The author of all manner of work—anthologies of Native American literature, children’s books, fiction, and several collections of poetry—Swann teaches at Cooper Union in New York City.
I wonder why I’ve returned to this place
that behaves as if a city is cinder-blocks and planks,
sheepskins nailed to the sides of houses,
forgotten, going rank. Where the people
live in coal smoke and kids swim in wide
slicks of garbage after work, and I remember when
I was a boy, seeing older kids like a foreign race,
black with pit or shipyard, drifting
through coal smoke, crumbling streets,
and thinking: that is how things are,
that’s real life, the sizing-up of a
sharp look, the thick gob of spit,
the crushed stub of a cigarette, the breath
that takes in foul air like a joke.
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