May Swenson

(May 28, 1913 – December 4, 1989 / Utah)

Cardinal Ideograms


A mouth. Can blow or breathe,
be a funnel, or Hello.

A grass blade or a cut.

A question seated. And a proud
bird's neck.

Shallow mitten for two-fingered hand.

Three-cornered hut
on one stilt. Sometimes built
so the roof gapes.

A policeman. Polite.
Wearing visored cap.

O unrolling,
tape of ambiguous length
on which is written the mystery
of everything curly.

A step,
detached from its stair.

The universe in diagram:
A cosmic hourglass.
(Note enigmatic shape,
absence of any value of origin,
how end overlaps beginning.)
Unknotted like a shoelace
and whipped back and forth,
can serve as a model of time.

Lorgnette for the right eye.
In England or if you are Alice
the stem is on the left.

A grass blade or a cut
companioned by a mouth.
Open? Open. Shut? Shut.

Submitted: Thursday, April 01, 2010

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  • Deidre Fichte (1/10/2014 12:02:00 PM)

    Hi there......you forgot to include the numbers to the left, which is pretty integral to this poem. (Report) Reply

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