Kathleen Flenniken

Compare the movement of swallows
April 24, 2016 Flenniken Kathleen

Compare the movement of swallows


with Magritte’s matrix of businessmen

carefully spaced and hovering in the sky

who move not at all


but might—a characteristic of swallows

ready to swoop or suddenly plummet,


though this is also nothing like Magritte’s men

suspended in middle age

who may drop like leaky helium balloons

or escape into the vanishing point

but will not acknowledge how desperate you are

for something to happen.


And by “you” I mean me,

framed in a doorway

Magritte repeatedly painted empty.


The swallows last evening

dragged behind them my meanings

with hooks that hurt even in recollection,

a tug I can only describe as my life.


Magritte’s men are unfastened from the air,

poised to rise or fall or disappear

if they’d just decide,


and by “men” I’ve meant all along

my husband in the yard

where he fails to hear me calling


or hears me and stands facing away,

utterly still.

Kathleen Flenniken’s poetry collections are Famous and Plume, a meditation on the Hanford Nuclear Site.  She was the 2012 – 2014 Washington State Poet Laureate.