Marc Swan

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On a Phantom Limb

A line in the opening story in Denis Johnson’s
last collection takes me to a time—
a young woman’s fascination with an amputation,
a choice she makes.
Surprising in a way, then I think of a good friend
who’d been in Nam,
lost a hand, part of an arm
replaced by a hook,
stories of women he dated, their fascination
with the missing limb. I’m not a perfect specimen,
can appreciate attention when a major body part
is lost to injury, disease or miscalculation.
He told me of a woman from Germany,
appealing in many ways: look, voice, attitude;
when it came to sexuality, a curiosity
for the unknown or unused.
She would mount his stump—eager, open to whatever
he wanted to do, but that was the draw, the hinge
on which she found her true self she’d say, smiling,
laughing in a very familiar way.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Before “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”
ends we see three kittens under the table
in the room that’s not the room we’re in.
It’s afternoon, but the curtains are drawn
and the acid is beginning to come on
along with the tequila Scratch had decided
we needed to pump up the volume. Four of us—
Scratch, Frank, Rick and I stare at the cover,
trying to read the message in the flower garden
when Frank decides that a kitten needs
to be held and then tossed from one to another.
As the music builds and afternoon wanes,
Scratch throws “the runt” against a wall
again and again and again. I just sit there
like a toad, “Lovely Rita” dancing in my head,
ceiling tilting this way and that, John and Paul
leading a parade of high-stepping penguins
around the room. Suddenly a full-size movie
screen pops up in front of the bloody wall
with my life flashing by in black and white—
it’s years before the color comes back.

Toad Suck Review January issue 2016


Marc Swan is a retired vocational rehabilitation counselor. His poems have recently been published in Atlanta Review, Ropes, Last Call Anthology, Chiron Review, among others. today can take your breath away, his fourth collection, was published in 2018 by Sheila-na-gig Editions. He lives with his wife Dd in coastal Maine.