Habeas Corpus

By Brian Swann Brian Swann
Knots, a thousand lights, in   
   sheer dark, aimed at my window,   
tinny crystals, so mother dies   
   in my sleep. The snow turns   
coarse, goes out. An axe sounds   
   where I'd never heard an axe before.   
Breathing becomes dangerous. I can't   
   help it, making me her, even   
before I was born, her brain burning   
   out patterns I follow like will   
o' the wisps, sparks popping.   
   I put on heels and find I can balance,   
twist my spine, bend to get my seams   
   straight on my own, no one to   
call on, like she called me, sheer nylon   
   turning on sheer skin under my palms.   
I pull on the ratty musquash coat.   
   I have the body. I move off in it,   
eddying, trying to see who I am now.   
   I totter down the street thinking,   
one day he'll be sorry. And here I am.   
   Sorry. I watch her getting smaller   
up the road. I watch us both, till   
   nothing's all there is.

Source: Poetry (January 2004).


This poem originally appeared in the January 2004 issue of Poetry magazine

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January 2004


Poet, critic, and translator Brian Swann earned a BA and an MA from Queens’ College, Cambridge, and a PhD from Princeton University. His collections of poetry include Autumn Road (2005), which won the Ohio State University Press/The Journal Award in Poetry; Snow House (2006), winner of the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Prize; and In Late Light (2013).
In addition to poetry, Swann has authored numerous collections of fiction, . . .

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Poems by Brian Swann

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