SWWIM publishes, celebrates, & promotes women, women-identifying & Femme-presenting writers through a Miami-based reading series & the online poetry journal SWWIM Every Day.

The Strangers Were Poets

I remember sleeping with the Ballad for Metka

Krasovec over my head for years in Florida, white

cover with people crowded together

and their ghosts above their black print selves,

pink too like shells, book small enough

to hold comfortably in a hand,

the ballad singing over my head all night

long, while I slept close to the floor, train

shaking as if trying to rouse me.

I remember shaking Tomaz Salamun’s

hand in St. Marks, I’d asked strangers

in the dark, where is St. Mark’s, laughing

because they’d been to St. Mark’s

or wanted to go but couldn’t,

or we asked strangers on the street

where is Tomaz Salamun

reading, and the strangers were poets

or lovers of poetry, and pointed us

toward St. Marks, their arms raised

like parentheses, like waves, but it was

almost over, and this was clear when we

arrived, and everyone stood in one of many

little circles, a large medieval door

shut. It was over. Dejected,

I climbed stairs to another floor,

down a hall, a restroom where I

stood in front of the glass examining

my face, my newly shorn

hair, and Teresa ran in, Hurry,

Hurry, she cried. Simen is holding

Tomaz Salamun hostage downstairs.

Simen said he can’t leave until

he meets you. She loves you, Simen said

to Tomaz Salamun, as if this would convince

him to stay until I ran out the bathroom door,

down the stairs, into the vast hall

to find Simen from Sweden

by way of Norway who doesn’t even like

people all that much, holding Tomaz

Salamun hostage for me because

I’d said I loved him. Like the cold

spark in a violet on a winter sill,

alive and unexpected. I remember

my hand in Tomaz Salamun’s, like a hand but

also like bread rising around

my hand, warm, tremendously

comforting, Who are you,

he asked, who are you?

Kelle Groom’s four poetry collections include Spill, Five Kingdoms, Luckily (Anhinga Press), and Underwater City (University Press of Florida). Her memoir, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl (Simon & Schuster), is a B&N Discover pick and NYTBR Editor's Choice. Her work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, The New Yorker, New York Times, Ploughshares, and Poetry. She teaches in the MFA Program at Sierra Nevada College, Lake Tahoe.


this country will require you to be magical then attempt to burn you for being a witch