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

This Year, While It Still Breathes by Marjorie Tesser


          1. The Visit 


In dark of each night, at 3:57 exactly, nine black birds fly in. One perches above each eye, one at my heart, one at my gut, two at my legs, one at my head, one at my sex. The ninth does as it sees fit. At 3:58 they begin to peck. At first it’s like a nudge, or a knock, or the tug of a ribbon around a neck. I toss, I turn, I try to throw them off but they strike harder, drawing specks of blood. At five they rise and circle thrice before flying off. 



          2. The Weight


A warm evening, late fall, and across the fading fields the children call like birds;

some, deciding when to migrate, reply in kind, shrieking like children.


I want to remember this world while it still breathes.


I have hosted this year in my body, a tumor or stone. I have worn it

turtleneck tight at my throat worn it a weighty too-warm coat


against cold against fire and smoke against my will; I drag it

as spare part, the many-colored coat of our historic home.


I have borne it dense like the fodder of quick-trigger cops

and mad bombers, dead weight, yet a white rhino lighter;


felt its hot breath on my neck, polar icecaps’ drip between

my shoulders, its tectonic plates’ shift at the flat of my back.


I used to lie awake unquiet for my family.

Now the scope has grown. A preliminary mourning. 


The evening grows colder; birds circle and home for the night.

The sunset flames the river as of old, back-lit, golden, as if it’s just


beautiful, and not a metaphor for something dire.



          3. While It Still Breathes


How to bear it—

            this year does not let up; absurd

            apocalyptica of disaster.


And yet I could name all day

            the beauty we’re blessed—


morning’s strong coffee, the sun

            warm on my back,


everywhere bright yellow: forsythia,

            daffodils, goldfinch at the feeder.


Two crows dive. Calling and cawing, they drive

            a red-tailed hawk from their young.


Compassionate action, I tell myself, if despair

            and fear are cloudcover be airstream.


Heft, or set it down

            let down off my back let it slide

            down to earth to rest; the better


to free my arms to defend or lift it

            to cradle, or weave for it a nest.



Marjorie Tesser is the author of poetry chapbooks THE IMPORTANT THING IS (Firewheel Award Winner) and The Magic Feather. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in Drunken Boat, Akashic Press’ Thursdaze, Earth’s Daughters and others. She has edited poetry books and anthologies for Bowery Books and Demeter Press and is editor-in-chief of Mom Egg Review.


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