I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars. — Og Mandino

Anna Thilda May “May” Swenson (May 28, 1913 – December 4, 1989) was an American poet and playwright. Harold Bloom considered her one of the most important and original poets of the 20th century.

The first child of Margaret and Dan Arthur Swenson, she grew up as the eldest of 10 children in a Mormon household where Swedish was spoken regularly and English was a second language. Although her conservative family struggled to accept the fact that she was a lesbian, they remained close throughout her life. Much of her later poetry works were devoted to children (e.g. the collection Iconographs, 1970). She also translated the work of contemporary Swedish poets, including the selected poems of Nobel laureate Tomas Tranströmer.

BLEEDING
May Swenson

Stop bleeding said the knife.
I would if I could said the cut.
Stop bleeding you make me messy with this blood.
I’m sorry said the cut.
Stop or I will sink in farther said the knife.
Don’t said the cut.
The knife did not say it couldn’t help it but
it sank in farther.
If only you didn’t bleed said the knife I wouldn’t
have to do this.
I know said the cut I bleed too easily I hate
that I can’t help it I wish I were a knife like
you and didn’t have to bleed.
Well meanwhile stop bleeding will you said the knife.
Yes you are a mess and sinking in deeper said the cut I
will have to stop.
Have you stopped by now said the knife.
I’ve almost stopped I think.
Why must you bleed in the first place said the knife.
For the same reason maybe that you must do what you
must do said the cut.
I can’t stand bleeding said the knife and sank in farther.
I hate it too said the cut I know it isn’t you it’s
me you’re lucky to be a knife you ought to be glad about that.
Too many cuts around said the knife they’re
messy I don’t know how they stand themselves.
They don’t said the cut.
You’re bleeding again.
No I’ve stopped said the cut see you are coming out now the
blood is drying it will rub off you’ll be shiny again and clean.
If only cuts wouldn’t bleed so much said the knife coming
out a little.
But them knives might become dull said the cut.
Aren’t you still bleeding a little said the knife.
I hope not said the cut.
I feel you are just a little.
Maybe a little but I can stop now.
I feel a little wetness still said the knife sinking in a
little but then coming out a little.
Just a little maybe just enough said the cut.
That’s enough now stop now do you feel better now said the knife.
I feel I don’t have to bleed to feel I think said the cut.
I don’t I don’t have to feel said the knife drying now
becoming shiny.

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THE SHAPE OF DEATH
May Swenson

What does love look like? We know
the shape of death. Death is a cloud
immense and awesome. At first a lid
is lifted from the eye of light:
there is a clap of sound, a white blossom

belches from the jaw of fright,
a pillared cloud churns from white to gray
like a monstrous brain that bursts and burns,
then turns sickly black, spilling away,
filling the whole sky with ashes of dread;

thickly it wraps, between the clean sea
and the moon, the earth’s green head.
Trapped in its cocoon, its choking breath
we know the shape of death:
Death is a cloud.

What does love look like?
Is it a particle, a star –
invisible entirely, beyond the microscope and Palomar?
A dimension unimagined, past the length of hope?
Is it a climate far and fair that we shall never dare

discover? What is its color, and its alchemy?
Is it a jewel in the earth-can it be dug?
Or dredged from the sea? Can it be bought?
Can it be sown and harvested?
Is it a shy beast to be caught?

Death is a cloud,
immense, a clap of sound.
Love is little and not loud.
It nests within each cell, and it
cannot be split.

It is a ray, a seed, a note, a word,
a secret motion of our air and blood.
It is not alien, it is near-
our very skin-
a sheath to keep us pure of fear.