Where it Begins


Out of stock

Poems by

Mark Swanson

Poetry chapbook, 42 pages. Cover price: $7

ISBN: 978-1-59948-244-6

Release date: 2010


This Limited Edition chapbook is part of Main Street Rag’s Author’s Choice Chapbook Series.

Mark Swanson is an English teacher at Rabun County High School in Tiger, Georgia, located in the county where he was born and raised. He received his MFA from Warren Wilson College and has served as Director of Creative Writing for the Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities Academy Program of South Carolina. His poems have been published in journals and magazines including Passages North, The Virginia Quarterly Review, The Atlanta Review, and Plainsong. The title poem of this collection, “Where It Begins” is included in The Sporting Muse, A Critical Study of Poetry about Athletes and Athletics. He lives in Westminster, South Carolina with his wife Sam Ramsay.

Sure of foot and clear of eye, Mark Swanson takes his readers straight to the heart of things, whether home is a watermarked ceiling and paint-blistered walls or the images cast by lights of cars that never stop. Whether you come from a town where Callenback’s redbone bitch waddles down Mill Street, or a city where a man may or may not know he’s had all of whatever it is he can take, these poems will carry you to places where the human heart is tried and fired, where it lives or dies-to the very places that matter in the end. This is a book to read and read again, a collection that will stay the course.

–Phebe Davidson

Where It Begins

The lightweight boys with short strides
turn the corner, their cleats just topping the grass
making a sound like a slingblade
slicing through ferns.
The bigger boys, the ones with baby fat,
fall over each other, lunging and grunting,
their fists, still small, filled with turf.
Bald as a marble, legs thick as roofbeams,
the coach blows a whistle, shakes his head
and sinks to his knees looking skyward.
These boys will remember their fathers
standing in the tall grass beyond the endzone,
ears and noses stuffed with hair,
some in suits and some in jeans,
a little team of their own huddled together-
but mostly they’ll remember that hook-nosed man
on his knees, that goddamned whistle, glinting
around his neck as if to shed new light
on their hazy world, as if the sound,
more like the scream of a madman
than the call of any bird, could conjure grace
and power in an instant.
The stopping and starting, the trying to please-
it doesn’t end, ever.


Where the Heart Is

Home is a water-marked ceiling,
paint-blistered walls,
cardboard-sealed window
where something cold and wet
pushed through the pane,
drawn to the whisper of heat
from the pilot light’s blue flicker.

Home is where scratches fester,
bruises seep from dark purple
to yellow and for months, linger.
Home where we dream
of Hunnicutt’s daughter.

This summer he has her working
his produce stand across
the road from the Last Chance,
where we don’t shoot pool
or the breeze anymore,
but sit at the bar watching her
sack green beans, weigh
tomatoes, count apples, and God,
every so often, bite
into a perfect blue plum.

We place our fingertips gently
over the varnished scars, names
of those before us who drank up
lawyer’s fees and home repairs.
Bottles lined up against the mirror
shimmer with light, a celestial
pump organ’s music calling us up,
into the fields where on bended knees
we reach among thorns and knotted snakes
to harvest the fruits of the earth.

Let the juices permanently stain
our hands. We will give it all
to Hunnicutt’s Daughter.
Together, we will feed our needs.


Rain pops and shatters on the windshield,
refracting the glow from the Laundromat,
covering me with pale blue needles.
You lift and separate our clothes,
frayed and stained from time and work.
They seem like more than light or dark.

Leaning against a washer, arms crossed,
swirl of a bruise visible on your cheek,
you stare at the dryer where mine grapples
with yours and you never look once
at the darkness, not when lightning rips
the sky or a thunderclap rattles the pane.

We wait, both of us, for this front to pass,
for this, the last cycle to be done.

SKU: 978-1-59948-244-6 Category: Tag: