Todd Swift was born in Montreal on Good Friday, 1966. He is the author of three books, an
editor of five books; and a CD - all of poetry. During his college years, he was a champion
debater, and upon graduation wrote many hours of TV. In 1997 he was given the Young
Quebecer of the Year Award in the Arts and Education category for his poetry projects. He
has been shortlisted several times for the Irving Layton Award for Poetry. From 1998-2001
he was Visiting Lecturer at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, specializing in courses on
poetry and film. In late 2001 he moved to Paris where he lived and wrote for two years.
He has been poetry editor of online magazine nthposition since 2002. In 2003 he was
editorial coordinator for the global peace campaign, Poets Against The War and a special
guest reader at the Frankfurt Book Fair. He has reviewed for Books in Canada, Poetry
London, and The Dubliner, among others. His poems have recently appeared in Gargoyle,
Geist, Maisonneuve, New American Writing, Other Magazine, Poetry London, and Stand. In
2004 he was Oxfam's Poet-in-residence. The Chronicle of Higher Education has compared
his poetry projects to those of Ezra Pound in the 10s and 20s. On November 3 2004 he
was a guest speaker at Eye to Eye: The British Council's 70th anniversary global conference
on cultural relations. He lives in London's West End with his wife.
The New Fedora
In Budapest gentlemen wear fedoras.
I do too, mine soft and black,
made from rabbit's fur.
Today, it nearly crossed the ring-road
sans my head, lured by the wind.
I grasped the brim
and held on with my gloved hand.
I smiled, catching my father,
being him. All the long work
of figuring manhood out, responsible
and dark, suddenly lifting
like a shy clerk just given a raise.
I made the one I know cry
For thinking that my love was unsure.
I lay beside her and comforted
Her head, turned sideways to the pillow,
And set a light upon the scene
To better inspect my handiwork.
I suspect a thing gone out in life
To have caused such disorder, to have made
A noise issue from the single thing mattering
In my system, other than my self.
I am inexcusable. And fearful that behind
My caresses lies a fastidious corridor,
Save to endless motives, coloured tresses.
Forgive my odd touch,
Prepare to lie in emptinesses.
My radios came at all hours, on different days.
Sometimes they were my father, dressed down
for baseball, on his bed, and all was good;
then there was "Father Robert Johnson", crazed
with The Lord, whose call-in shows were doomed
with late-night suicides and talk of Sodom's sins;
then, the house dark, that man's gilded voice
spent its charity on emptiness; my father snored.
I lay awake until the morning news, and dawn,
amazed that the end was upon us, none spared
except the ones who took Him into their souls,
then got up to sassy jingles for designer jeans
and snowstorms, which some weeks God sent.
Death of a Neighbour
Once, he gave me a green rock,
Whose veins were smooth and ran
Twisting like only candy does.
He drank an awful amount and when,
Christmas morning, my family's car
Wouldn't start, came over to immerse
His hands in the engine and solve
The problem. He went back across
The street as if ice was under him
The whole time he walked. He died
This way: fell down, and bled inside.
He leaves behind a woman surprised,
A wilderness of daughters, computers,
And half-baked creations on every floor:
A zoo of failed contraptions, orphans
Of hope or genius, cluttered in alcohol.
Married men are only allowed
to be touched like this
when they are injured.
Each week, she takes measure
of the healing, a hand stroking
a ligament, tracing bend or nerve,
showing how to exercise on a stool.
Nothing about this bed,
with its sheet that rolls off
like toilet paper after every visit,
even when it rises
or lowers mechanically, is passionate
or lovely. So why thrill when
she pulls the yellow curtain on its ring?
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