Two Poems on the Theme of "Home"

Wally Swist

Wally Swist

Repetition and Grace were selected as part of MSU Library Short Edition's call for submissions on the theme of "Home," in coordination with the MSU Broad Art Museum's exhibition "Where We Dwell." Wally Swist has published over forty books and chapbooks of poetry and prose, including Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love (Southern Illinois University Press, 2012), Daodejing: An Introduction (Lamar University Press, 2015), Awakening & Visitation, and Evanescence: Selected Poems (2020), with Shanti Arts Books. His translations have been and/or will be published in Chicago Quarterly Review, Chiron Review, Ezra: An Online Journal of Translation, The RavensPerch: Adding Breadth to Words, Solace: A Magazine of Diverse Voices, Transference: A Literary Journal Featuring the Art & Process of Translation, (Western Michigan Department of Languages), and Woven Tale Press. His latest book of essays and newest collection of poetry, Taking Residence, was published in 2021 by Shanti Arts. A Writer’s Statements on Beauty: New & Selected Essays & Reviews is forthcoming by Shanti Arts.


After our morning meditation,
I am clear enough
to think to share with you

that I hold my hands upwards,
palms up, close together,
in my lap, so that I can be

open to receive grace,
and then explain from my Zen
practice, years ago, I was

trained to hold my hands
differently, in a kind of mudra,
thumbs barely touching,

as if to produce the space where
the spark of enlightenment might
enter through into the ardor

and discipline of practice;
noting also that I focus
my breath by repeating

an inner prayer that I recite
for you. You nod your head
and thank me, and I cherish

that moment, its clarity,
the satisfaction of knowing
it occurred, before it passes

as all moments pass,
by elapsing into the nebulous
opacity of our forgetting,

reminding us both of what is
reiterated in the inherent gift
repeating itself every morning.


You call out
from another room
that you see the vixen
and before I can locate

where she is
she is halfway down
the tree break, alternately
practicing stillness

and speed before
she slips into
the bracken, which is how
grace catches us,

which is how she defines
the moment itself,
by leaving us with
her streak of red

etched in our memory,
a swath the color of fire,
an opening into
a chamber of the heart,

in her disappearing
as quickly as we
originally see her,
even before she appeared.

Explore the power of words

Select your story