[ultimate_heading main_heading=”Wally Swist *Featured Poet* – Issue.XXV : February 2017 ” main_heading_color=”#1e73be” sub_heading_color=”#8224e3″ spacer=”line_with_icon” spacer_position=”bottom” line_style=”dotted” line_height=”1″ line_color=”#1e73be” icon_type=”custom” icon_img=”id^48|url^http://ashvamegh.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Ashvamegh-ICO.jpg|caption^null|alt^Ashvamegh Journal Icon|title^Ashvamegh ICO|description^null” img_width=”48″ main_heading_style=”font-weight:bold;” main_heading_font_size=”desktop:34px;” line_width=”3″]a popular poet with verses for nature…[/ultimate_heading]
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Wally Swist is a noted poet and writer from MA, USA. His books include Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love (Southern Illinois University Press, 2012); The Daodejing: A New Interpretation, with David Breeden and Steven Schroeder (Lamar University Literary Press, 2015); Invocation (Lamar University Literary Press, 2015), and The Windbreak Pine (Snapshot Press, 2016). Many of his books are to come, including The View of the River (Kelsay Books, 2017), Candling the Eggs (Shanti Arts, LLC, 2017), and Singing for Nothing: Selected Nonfiction as Literary Memoir (The Operating System, 2018). Wally Swist is a multi-talented person who has also been writing, editing and teaching for several magazines and institutions.

Read the poems by Wally Swist


The Enchanted Tailor

for Fikriye King


You mend my old khakis; tear out

the shredded lining of black silk

in my Yale Genton frock coat,


replace it with a new one,

quoting what price it would

normally cost, and what you


will charge me, which is half

off.  You ask me if there is

an extra for the one missing


button that fell off below

the collar of a favorite green

summer shirt, and after looking


along the front tail, where

some are often sewn,  I am

embarrassed to say there isn’t;


and you lightly reprimand me

as if I were a relative, of which

I am honored to be if I could,


but you suggest that you will

find two black emerald buttons

of for replacements, snip off


the single lonesome one, and sew

them both on, so I can then affix

them to my button-down collar.


When I pick up the shirt

later in the week, you ask me,

How you like, and I answer you


with an appreciative nod

and my smile, asking, How much. 

You answer, Two dollars, and


we bask in the glow of what is

good company, your Radio Free

Europe/Radio Liberty station

broadcasting news in Turkish;

a friend of yours from your

Muslim prayer group, laughing


delightedly over the decorative

embellishments you have woven

into what may be a festivity of


wedding dresses assembled

together on a line in your shop,

beside a poster for an event in


town to raise funds for

the refugees from the war in Syria.

I pay you for making my old


shirt new again, and in what is

only a passing moment another

business transaction of ours is


over again, until I find another

tear in yet one more seam,

or discover wear in my paisley


comforter which has warmed me

for many winters, that you find

a way to tuck up, to stitch over,


to renew any wear or frays with

needle and thread, unwinding from

what appears to be your magical


spool, from which you are able to

repair what are endless imperfections

in the clothes we wear and what


we might keep bundled

around us to stem the unremitting

bitterness of being underdressed


in the cold, which has no

borders, knowing that, as you do,

the fabric of lovingkindness fits all.






Where four rivers

empty into a confluence of freshwater

forests of mangrove swamps:

Bramaputra, Ganges, Meghna, Padma.


Where four rivers resonate with

a chatter of macaques, and the blade of

the sawfish gleams; where you can hear

the splash of the saltwater crocodile.


Where four rivers

provide sustenance for itinerant fisher-

man and honeygatherers

who range deep into the Sundari groves.


Where four rivers

offer sanctuary for the Bengal tiger, who

is a formidable swimmer, to roam

the Sundarbans of Bangladesh and India.


Where four rivers gather

fisherman have fashioned masks to wear

on the back of their heads to try to thwart

fierce attacks by the Bengal tiger.


Where four rivers flow

it is said that a fisherman fought off such

an attack by using his fishing pole

in his defense of a tiger’s teeth and claws.


Where four rivers stream

together in a rush, a fisherman on a bank

hears a crackle of sticks, and turns to see

what is about to spring upon him is a tiger.


Where four rivers sweep

toward the sea, honeygatherers walk through

the dark forest carrying the combs

of bees amid the Bengal tiger’s echoing roar.


Where four rivers meet,

the mangrove forests are named Sundarbans,

which in Bengali means

beautiful forest, flickering in light and shade.


Where four rivers course

through green mangroves, it is said that only

an infirmed Bengal tiger, one who has lost

some teeth, will attack a boat of fisherman.



Heart’s Essence


           The heart is not human that does not love.  There is no use

            in denying the fact that happiness or misery is, somehow,

            strangely connected with the connections of the heart.

—an underlined passage in The Romance of Abelard and Heloise by O. W. Wight, page 13 (New York: Appleton, 1853), a book found in Emily Dickinson’s bedroom


What connections of the heart draw us together, Emily,

on this day that will too soon be forgotten,

the rhododendron hedge flowering pink between your

lawn and your brother, Austin’s; a festival of buttercups

beneath oak and shagbark hickory.


What a buzz of silence there is behind

these ivory-colored lace curtains; your white linen dress

on display next to your chair and writing table;

a lamp you might have used on the second floor looking

west on Main Street in Amherst.


What sadness there is in each moment

in its passing and what hope this fresh wallpaper offers

with green stems and leaves, whose arbors support such

a rich color of the rose, alembic of the heart’s essence,

that it pacifies the mind and invites repose—


constancy being no simple thing,

as your devotion to poetry exemplifies.

However, is this not how we are connected through such

diligent practice that we plough through our own beds

of sorrow to till the soil of our discontent


until we may nourish ourselves on the crops

of our soil’s largesse?  Both flower and fruit indicative of

the harvest of our own expansiveness and transcendence;

our own poetic alchemy converting boons from loss,

grace from malcontent;


psychic free radicals to ascetic sobriety; our dryness

whetted by the intoxicating elixir

of the lubricant of the auspiciously written word,

the ones that defy gravity and lift

off the page in their own light; and hover there,


igniting a deeper resonance of our experience of what

it is to live our lives, that provides us

with the stalwart guidance that what mere words

in their apparent insubstantiality could

only affirm when they are infused with such intrinsic


subtlety and depth they exhibit how everyone

is connected to each other as through

the thread in the needle’s eye, in sewing together

of your language in such harmony.  Especially when

we find the tree in the smallest stick, a guiding light


in each puddle beneath the stars, the first words

of a verse, and the melody of its refrain;

so that we might begin to sing, as we walk in the rain

from street to street in the coat that we wear,

which you have woven with such expert care.



The White Stag

for Linda Jones


The box you painted

with the white stag bounding through

autumn swale, descending the ridge


below nearly defoliated birch, maple,

and oak, augurs the otherwordly

dimension which informs our daily


lives on this plane, from which

the Celts believed this animal

was both a herald and messenger.


Although it is also a sign of taboo,

as in the transgression of Pwyll,

Prince of Dyfed, and his hounds,


trespassing King Anwan’s hunting

grounds.  Arthurian legend honed

its reliance on the white stag’s


ability to evade capture and that

when seen the sighting proved

to be an indication to begin a quest,


also denoting the incipience of the hero’s

journey.  Saint Eustace, Christian

martyr, saw a vision of a crucifix


between the antlers of a white stag

while hunting in ancient Tivoli,

which precipitated his perseverance


in his faith, despite a litany of afflictions

which rivaled the tribulations of Job.

Even Robert Baden-Powell, founder


of world scouting, lectured about

the white stag, and didn’t espouse

it being hunted, but taught that it was


a symbol of moving onward, not

without joy, and was emblematic of

woodswalking itself.  Hungarian myth


relays that the brothers Hunor and

Magor were visited by a white stag,

and that it led them to Scythia, where-


upon they founded the Magyar tribe.

  1. S. Lewis anointed a white stag to

steer the sleigh of Jadis, the white witch,


but was responsible for also leading

the children out of Narnia, which

intimates the duality of both good and evil.


How this animal furthermore portends

compassion, is seen in the tale by Kate

Seredy, The White Stag, in which even


Atilla the Hun, known historically as

the Scourge of God, followed this white

hart on a mythological journey which


brought his people to a new country

in which they could settle, live in peace.

It is also said that anyone who is enough


of an adept hunter to snare the white

stag is then granted three wishes,

upon which, at this time, I might open


the lid of this painted wooden box,

which you gave me so generously

and graciously as a gift, and prudently


lift my eyes up to meet those

of the white stag and ask for grace

to abound in my heart and in my home.


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