Sam van Zweden




Together Again

They had 47 years together
before Grandpa got swept away
on a tide of cold sweats and
shaking limbs.

They planted a sack of rattling bones in the ground.
The test tubes and charts left behind
had nothing to do with what we remembered
Grandpa to be.

We cleared all that away,
all the empty pill bottles
the special oxygen mask next to their bed –
we kept the Grandpa from before.

Grandma smiled sadly,
standing in his cardigan at the cemetery –
her feet pointed toward Grandpa’s grave
as she stared into the hills.

“He’s at peace now,” she said.
But all I could think of was
that bag of bones under six feet of clay,
the earth pushing down on him.
But not the “him” that I remember.

She wore the cardigan for ten days,
and when she wore her own clothes again,
they were just

She seems less now,
shrinking into whatever black she wears today
and I wonder if she still sets his place,
or turns down his side of the bed.

I wonder how it is that they’ll
find one another in the dark,
together again in the family grave,
when the dirt is just so heavy.

This piece appeared in Ex Calamus’ sixth edition, themed “Reunion”. You can download it here.

Really, truly in the clutches of The Muse

I don’t even remember the last time this happened.

I’m typing a poem and I cannot stop, I’m crying and watching this clip over and over. (Thankyou Jorja Kelly for sharing it on your blog). Such intense physicality affects me in a weird way.

I’ve got a throw-away sentence in my head, and it means so much to me, it’s been torturing me since I heard it. It’s beautiful.

I’m in the clutches of the Muse, and there is nowhere I’d rather be. Truly.

Dressing Down

When the decorative parts of me
Are forced away from the world,
I am little more than
A shrivelled Christmas Tree.

Am I Hitler?

Papers turn to confetti in my hands.
You tear my words from end to end,
A scritching switching of sympathies
From the days behind us
When you stuck them to your forehead,
Like a game of Guess Who.
Celebrity Heads.
Always the same questions –
“Am I alive?”
“Am I an animal?”
“Am I Hitler?”
“Am I Hitler?”
“Am I Hitler?”
Back then, you never were,
But everything since has changed.
Now my words are confetti, which I throw in some delusional celebration
And there is nothing on your forehead
But creases.

Flotsam & Shit

I am a shell full of worms,
A casing filled with maggots.
A rolling ball of shit,
Picking up flotsam
As I race downhill.

What kinds of possibilities are there,
For a stinky tired rolling ball
Of flotsam and shit?

Who employs him?
Who sleeps next to him at night?
Who wants to have ten thousand of his babies?
Who gives him that special litle fluttering at the core of the flotsam and shit?
Who gives himthe comforting tap he needs?
Who will keep this crusted ancient flotsam and shit?

Decay is not an option.

Tick-Tock Polka

“The Tick-Tock Polka”
-Samantha van Zweden.

This is how I march my way through history –
nailing down my memories
to stop them from

My lover disappeared and came back to me in pieces.
I swallowed those pieces so I’d always have her near.
My insides groaned as the pieces remembered themselves
and tore at me to let them out.

My mother always told me,
“If you can catch a bird
and put salt on its tail feathers,
you get to take it home.”

I wanted to keep it in a drawer by my bed.

I found a swallow on the ground in our yard.
Its body was broken and still,
an awkward little nature study.

I put it in my drawer and salted its tail.
I pretended.

It wasn’t the same.

I loved a girl who forgot how to love me back.
She switched herself off and shut herself away.

Late at night I climbed through her bedroom window
and, while she perspired dreams,
I severed the fingers of her left hand
leaving her only a thumb.
Her butchered digits sit mute in my pocket.

Tying down.
Putting away.
Holding too close.
This is how I claw through time.

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