Marc Swan

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Spring Break, 1965

Below the second floor landing
surrounded by broken
palm fronds,
plastic bags,
crinkled food wrappers
a greenish-blue pool
rocks in a soft breeze,
cracks beneath
the surface,
maybe six feet deep,
it’s Nassau
in the sixties, standards
aren’t high. Standing
in front of his second
floor room
near the railing
a sophomore from Tampa U
in baggy shorts,
bare-chest, wide grin
climbs over
teetering on the edge.
He flicks open
a can of Zippo lighter fluid,
sprays his stomach,
strikes a match—
as the hairs ignite,
he drops belly first
into the pool,
quickly sinks,
then rises
swimming to the side
where a friend offers
a cold Bud.

Spring Break, 1966

A ’60 red Volkswagen in somewhat good repair,
a case of Buena Noche,
Hound and I headed north
on 301 a few miles south of Hickox Georgia
when the VW sputters and spurts.
I downshift into first,
chug along to the next crossroads
with a general store, rail tracks
a few mangy looking dogs scrounging for food
then it just dies.
The clerk at the store tells us about a guy
who can fix anything.
He sends a young kid off into the brush.
We settle into a couple more warm beers.
An hour later a middle-aged guy in a soiled t-shirt
ripped jeans, work boots, tangle of greasy
blonde hair ambles into the store.
We tell him the problem,
show him the car.
The sun’s playing a dim light dance with gathering dusk.
He opens the back,
starts fiddling with wires and screws.
Darkness falls down on us like an anvil
as he pulls out a tired looking
part, grunts, moves off into nearby scrub.
Maybe an hour later he’s back,
same routine only this time
not a speck of available light.
Reaching into the back
of the VW, acting on touch,
his calloused fingers
twist and turn as he reattaches
the part. “Give it a shot.”
I crank it once, twice, the motor purrs.
“What do I owe you?”
“A six pack will do’er.”
“Busch, ok?”
He nods, picks up the six pack,
disappears into a pitch-black night.

Marc Swan lives in Portland Maine. Poems coming out this year in Gargoyle, 
Mudfish, Chiron Review, and Nerve Cowboy, among others. His third collection, 
Simple Distraction, was published by tall-lighthouse, London, England in 2009.