Two Poems

Cole Swensen



and always in pieces, which walking arranges
                                                                                         a long line
against a sharp sky
and always in pieces
                                         he noted birds
within a man
                         to find breaking
                                                           its difference
owl / hollow

hour / otter
                         passed as counting.

Much of Thoreau’s work is sufficiently conscious of rhythm that it,
in itself, constitutes a kind of walking, punctuated by rhyme, often
off, in which one pauses, looks up, and sees a bird, often landing
on a branch.







evening passes inside a person
                                                             passing a very small
match striking
                            the sound of a match striking
into the foot-thick ice on Walden Pond

in March and finding therein the candle he’d dropped
while out on a walk
                                       the previous autumn
                                                                                  had been all night
awakening owls, all of them flowers, huge magnolias
flying out of their shadows
                                                        who sheerly by accident
set fire to the woods.






Cole Swensen is the author of 14 collections of poetry, most of which focus on a single cultural or aesthetic question. Her current project, Walk On, looks at the relationship between writing and walking. Her most recent book, Gravesend (University of California, 2012), explores the cultural history of ghosts. Also author of an essay collection, Noise That Stays Noise, and founding editor of La Presse, a press that specializes in contemporary French work in translation, she teaches in the Literary Arts Department at Brown University.