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Three poems by Mollie Swayne


even as late as 1971

the city where I live

had no street signs


for mobile meals

had to use landmarks

and hand-drawn maps

to get to people’s homes

I heard that and thought—

that’s crazy

1971 is modern times

my parents were

in elementary school

and you’re telling me

this town didn’t

even have street signs?

but, then again

the heart is even larger

than the world

and it still has no street signs

even to this day

there’s nothing to help


its uncountable back alleys

today I found myself

on a road I haven’t

been down

in a long while

one you take for the taking


it goes nowhere

what did I see?


I have been thinking about

the nature of beauty


can beauty be a clown?

and vice versa?

the internet told me


involves exaggerating

your worst


but I know beauty

is always in earnest

it really is as

somber and terrible

as people say

I tell you this

as I cry

driving on that old

country road of mine

watching the gold


go by


it’s only a sin if you feel remorse

one night in bed

I said

I don’t think

anyone really knows

what neoliberalism is

he insisted he did

even though

he couldn’t explain it well

“you know it when you see it”

and then, after a bunch of

fighting about it

we didn’t even have sex

that same night

I dreamt I had a carrot

but carrots were animals

and this one was my pet

in the process of

coming up from sleep

I had to remind myself

a carrot is a plant

carrots cannot move

a carrot is a plant

how am I supposed

to find peace

within myself

when I’m full

of junk like that?!

inside of me

there is a cigarette

burn that’s a portal

to a hole

that goes down

maybe forever

I didn’t come alive

to this hole

for many years of my life

I thought I was basically

a happy person

look at a diagram

of Lake Baikal

from the side


it’s full of carrots

—clouds, cats,

colostomy bags

whatever else

you got

imagine you’re

a human being

a free animal

that likes

water light and sleep

loving someone is

like looking

in a mirror

trying to assemble

the pieces of

your own face

using your lover’s

as a backwards


I’m trying to say

it burns

it swallows

and I don’t know

what it’s for

or if I should

give it up

for the mountain snow


meditations after watching The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996)

(slightly after Frank O’Hara)

a woman matures once she understands

how to disagree with her mother

my mother doesn’t like Barbra Streisand which stinks

since I am the Streisand of this generation!

staying up late is a sign you don’t totally regret life

and you believe in love and the future

my glasses aren’t rose-colored—

they are Lisa Frank catastrophic

break my heart why don’t you?

I will only come back more velvet than ever

I have no time for medium

thoughts or medium lovers

love is about undressing

and I, maybe more than some others

have rotting meat in my soul

it’s because I think on a mythological scale

I have to, it’s a poet’s job! to zoom in and out between the small and grandiose

until everyone throws up

(I guess that’s what they call catharsis, baby)

there are many models for navigating love

in the modern pantheon, American celebrities

Alanis Morrisette is a minor god of selfhood

and the irony of the fact that both she and Ryan Reynolds are Canadian

is not lost on me!

but I choose Barbra

I will hold out for something reckless and headlong

with, yes, Puccini playing in the end


Mollie Swayne is a writer and journalist living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She received her MFA from the University of Tennessee. Her work has appeared in Carolina Quarterly, Madcap Review, Euphony, and elsewhere. She works in local news.

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