Mikey Swanberg



Basic Pool Maintenance 


it’s shock that the salamander dogs in
half dead     some bit

of backyard napalm     measured
and tossed into the deep end

but before I say    yeah well   
me too      there is time

to kneel on the slip-proof deck
to reach a hand under him

and to walk the deer path down
to the little creek

past the feeder for the waxwings
all  bright yellow and black

so that it looks so much like they do
they can’t  find it in the trees

it takes time out here
where the radio fails

or brings a stairway
to heaven on repeat

to know if you are making things
any better    the big fish

stitch together the shallows
the beaver packed

it up last flood
but I still try anyway to be like

this spotted cup mouth
sometimes in the water

sometimes in the mud




Intermediate Pool Maintenance


even if you don’t want to
you’ll have to start small

frog eggs dragonfly larva
newts     until you aren’t sure

if you are healing the water
or making a tonic for disappointment

when it’s finally the field mouse’s turn
to dance rigor mortis frozen in the filter

you go in yourself
in brand new trunks

forget the sunscreen
turn pink in your wanting

to make some small seeable thing
better    remember how

once    you were called a salve
and you had to look

it up to remember
if it can only help

what is already hurt
or if it can be a type of protection

so put the mouse in the bucket
put the bucket on the deck

pretend you have done everything
you possibly could

as you hose down
with the water from the spring

look out at the clouds
that might mean rain or might mean fever

and don’t stop looking
until you’re really not sure




Expert Pool Maintenance 

call it     you’re big as a bear
in this year’s trunks

so let the chemicals practice
their cursive on the surface

then flick that belly shaped
filter off

there is no one to ask
if it’s getting any better

it’s okay    to stand looking
a long time before

the towel gets thrown
to the deck chair

before the last fire ant
gets brushed from your leg

you haven’t done anything wrong
but who really cares

the water stayed cloudy
the frogs never left

you went online   read
every bottle twice

it’s true some nights
you were drunk

and forgot to shut
it off    forgot to turn

it down      you can
let that ride you if you want

because that  you’ve earned
but just look

the storms move past
like paintings of storms

moving past     and the shadow
from the arbor

hides your sunburn
from the sun

it’s okay to try
your hand at anything else

it’s okay again
to try anything

and it’s okay
to just be done


Mikey Swanberg holds an MFA from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and is the author of the chapbook, Zen and the art of Bicycle Delivery (Rabbit Catastrophe Press). He is a recipient of the Jane Vance prize for poetry, and lives in Chicago. 

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