Passages for My Children
Rounding the crest of a small hill,
I am stunned by the sweep of the road ahead.
It curves so gently and easily into the valley far below,
so verdant and alive but sparsely populated.
It’s somewhere in Ohio, but I’ve never been able
to find it again, to re-experience the slow, gentle,
majestic descent and being embraced by the land.
Alison was born into my arms,
so peaceful and calm as I held her and rocked with her.
Her laughter brightens many moments. Her memory
gives rise to many stories from the past. She’s so eager
to keep moving, as if driven, guided, clear,
and trusting of the road ahead.
Night fell long ago, and we couldn’t stop
until we reached the other side of a craggy
mountain, laced by the curvy road,
another anxious driver at our back.
Warren Zevon played on the radio
in a foreign country. We had no idea
which way the road was going to turn next,
so all we could do is drive patiently
and cautiously, and keep the other driver
Daniel searches down paths he has long ago
thought through. They’re tense and competitive,
but he maintains his edge. He leads,
whether or not they are following.
He’s wild, he’s exploring, he navigates
the tough and challenging roads. His passions
lead him to that elusive summit.
Just after dusk settled and no more glimmer of light
showed on the horizon, the stars shone bright.
The only interference came from us,
with our headlights beaming into the dark night,
fracturing the otherwise beautiful and desolate
empty summer air. We had no choice
but to turn them off as we drove,
following the curves in the road
by starlight. Knowing we could be caught,
but it was worth the chance
to blend with the night
and the thin streams of millions of stars
that guided us through the darkness.
David follows a singular path,
lit by the pasts of so many ancient travelers
and the people who have studied them since
and have tried to make sense of it all.
Vast centuries have intervened.
Stars have burst and imploded,
others live on, and he carves his path
through dimly lit, but clearly illuminated curves.
Landing in Dallas
as sunset dawns,
the shadows cast by tall trees
far below us
appear as icicles
on the surface of the lake.
Just a small portion of a rainbow,
a few short brushstrokes on the sky,
float over the city in the distance.
Storms kept us at bay
but yielded an opening
for the final evening flight.
Smoky orange clouds spread overhead,
formerly ominous, now calming, celebratory.
The disappearing sun
lays claim to the radiant
yellow and orange prairie fires
from one horizon to the other,
but shirks all responsibility
for the fierce storms that preceded.
Life and Death
Even a cockroach gets to live.
We all make decisions about life and death.
As a child, I would flood the largest anthill in our yard,
totally flood it.
It would shrink for a day or two,
but then come back stronger,
a bigger mound,
flying in my face.
If the cockroach had crossed my path,
I would have stomped on it,
but it took a circuitous route.
It avoided death.
It was big.
But I don’t kill things bigger than that,
like frogs or toads,
croaking and hopping across my path,
so why should I kill the roach?
Now I let ants live, for the most part.
Sometimes I choose to flick a mosquito,
instead of smashing it against my arm,
even if it has filled its sac with my blood.
I don’t know if it’s consideration for karma,
or the cycle of life,
or my inevitable adjustment in older age.
Life is life.
Even cockroaches deserve to carry on.
Stephen Schwei is a published poet with Wisconsin roots, who has experienced various journeys and adventures and now resides in Houston, Texas. A gay man with three grown children and four wonderful grandchildren, who worked in Information Technology most of his life, he can be a mass of contradictions. Poetry helps to sort all of this out.
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