read Schwerer's "Quintessence"
read Schwerer's "Remedy"
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Of Whittling Lessons, poet J. Allyn Rosser writes:
"The landscape of Eric Schwerer’s poems is both tantalizingly illusive and palpably grounded in real oak and mud and scoops of feed. We are presented with shadowy events and stark figures that, while richly and grittily detailed in zoom-lens intimacy, are also distanced by a spiritually charged pang of inaccessibility. Time passes here in strange measure: there is a “bend” in the summer. “Night moves like a drunk man counting the hairs / on his chest.” Schwerer’s haunting visions make me feel as Frost did after glimpsing the grass though a broken-off sheet of ice: “I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight.” These are poems that offer a fresh angle on everything – often skewed, always intriguing.
Raised in Export,
PA, Eric Schwerer attended
cover photograph, “
I’m beating my head against the belly of the man
to whose home I once drove weekly
to learn to whittle.
It’s hard now as then, a boulder beneath his shirt, and
I want him never to have stopped
trying. I am beating
my head against the belly of the man to whose home
I once drove to learn to whittle.
It is as hard now
as then, but I want him to never have stopped
trying to teach me.
I bang my head until his flesh gives in and I
am up to my neck inside him. In
the guts I find my pocket knife.
(Why would he have swallowed it?)
I hold it to his enormous face,
long dead, wave it
wet before his eyes and broken beard. A hive of
blood drags inside the present tense. He is
a knuckle and all of the finger above it.
He takes my knife in that huge hand and squints.
Says it won’t keep an edge
but sharpens it and
we begin to carve dogs from little blocks of oak.
He helps me with the head,
puts his tip below its nose,
cuts the mouth.
The next lesson we carve
chopstick-sized ribs, pull poplar strips
between our thighs and blades,
shaving them into thin ribbons
we are to weave into heart-bottomed baskets next visit.
I don’t go back.
I am too hung-over, or
I have a test, or
I keep those sticks and ribbons
for years before I burn them.
I don’t go back. I am cold and in need
of kindling and
I’ve kept those poplar ribbons and sticks.
They torch like a large nest,
a mess cracking up inside a pot-bellied stove
I am still beating my head against.
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