N a p a l m   H e a l t h   S p a :   R e p o r t   2 0 1 3 :   S p e c i a l   E d i t i o n

L o n g   P o e m   M a s t e r p i e c e s   o f   t h e   P o s t b e a t s












little son

your grandfather comes in

his face dark as a heart attack,

as fuchsias, violets, his eyes

bright as broken glass


he holds you and you smile

he claims you with kisses, praises

‘We'll go fishing when you grow,ʼ

he says        I stand near

in dread of deep water

you laugh in his arms


‘He never held you that long,ʼ

his woman says to her son,

your father




he was always off to the bars

going the rounds

leaving all the work to them

taking all the money

sometimes losing it

or spending it in one shot

like the time he bought the

amphibious car

set out in the yard unused

its sleek fins burned to rust

in his absence

while they did the milking

pitching shoveling feeding

plowing planting harvesting;

the times he would bring home

a pint of ice cream

for the five of them




one night coming home drunk

he saw the light on in the milkhouse

and slipped through the half-open door


in the habit of ambush


the dog barked and he kicked it hard


―later he said it bit him


then he grabbed it by muzzle and jaw

wrenching them open;

you could hear bone snap

then he swung it with both hands

over his shoulders

slamming it down

to the concrete

and said to your father,

who was thirteen years old,


‘teach him to bite me,ʼ


and walked away


your father finished his chores―

the dog lay breathing blood

onto the freshly limed floor

―then he went to the house

to get his .22


but they stopped him

accusing him of cruelty

the old man saying nothing

in front of the t.v.




little son

your grandfather holds you in his arms

‘We'll go fishing just you and me,ʼ he croons

as if he could revoke the law of childhood

with an old man's love


‘We'll go fishing when you grow,ʼ

he says        holding you over

a vase of roses, their petals

heavily dropped like blood

on the table


you reach at their redness




[Originally published in Wisconsin Academy Review, June 1983, Volume 29, Number 3. Used by permission of the author.]


Ingrid Swanberg is a native Californian transposed to the Midwest. Her poetry has appeared in numerous small press publications since the late 60s. She participated in the mimeo publishing movement that flourished in the 60s and 70s, working with D.R. Wagner of Runcible Spoon and Ben L. Hiatt of Grande Rhonde Review. In the early to mid seventies she worked on two mimeo magazines focusing on women poets, Nevermind (co-edited with Melinda Barry in Sacramento, California) and Aye (begun when she moved to Madison, Wisconsin). Since 1980 she has edited Abraxas Magazine and directed Ghost Pony Press. Under the Ghost Pony imprint she published Zen Concrete & Etc., a major collection of the work of the important post-Beat poet d.a.levy that has done much to preserve his legacy as one of the 20th Century's great poets, and she continues to contribute to the growing scholarship on his work. She holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. levy is a central figure in her dissertation, Poēsis, Technē and Silent Writing: Lyric Poetry in the Destitute Time (2005). She co-edited, with Larry Smith, the anthology d.a.levy & the mimeograph revolution, an assemblage of essays, photos, interviews, art work and poetry by levy, his contemporaries and others (Bottom Dog Press, 2007). Ingrid's chapbook, Eight Poems, and the poem sequence, “in the dreamtime,” currently appear in the online Light & Dust Anthology of Poetry. The Costmary Press has recently published her new chapbook, Three Bird Songs (2012). Her book, Ariadne & Other Poems has just been released from Bottom Dog Press (March 2013).