May Swenson

(May 28, 1913 – December 4, 1989 / Utah)

Cardinal Ideograms - Poem by May Swenson

A mouth. Can blow or breathe,
be a funnel, or Hello.

A grass blade or a cut.

A question seated. And a proud
bird's neck.

Shallow mitten for two-fingered hand.

Three-cornered hut
on one stilt. Sometimes built
so the roof gapes.

A policeman. Polite.
Wearing visored cap.

O unrolling,
tape of ambiguous length
on which is written the mystery
of everything curly.

A step,
detached from its stair.

The universe in diagram:
A cosmic hourglass.
(Note enigmatic shape,
absence of any value of origin,
how end overlaps beginning.)
Unknotted like a shoelace
and whipped back and forth,
can serve as a model of time.

Lorgnette for the right eye.
In England or if you are Alice
the stem is on the left.

A grass blade or a cut
companioned by a mouth.
Open? Open. Shut? Shut.


Comments about Cardinal Ideograms by May Swenson

  • Fabrizio Frosini (12/6/2015 1:11:00 PM)

    As Jane LeCroy puts it:

    ''Cardinal Ideograms'' by
    May Swenson is a poem
    that works like a puzzle;
    experimental in form and
    appearance, it engages
    the imagination by inspiring
    playful connections with the familiar. Poetry
    is so much about the play of language leading one
    to see things in a new way. A successful poem, like
    Swenson’s, creates space for new thoughts to emerge,
    expanding our world and our thinking.
    (Report)Reply

    4 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Fabrizio Frosini (12/6/2015 1:09:00 PM)

    Cardinal Ideograms


    0 A mouth. Can blow or breathe,
    be funnel, or Hello.
    1 A grass blade or a cut.
    2 A question seated. And a proud
    bird’s neck.
    3 Shallow mitten for two-fingered hand.
    4 Three-cornered hut
    on one stilt. Sometimes built
    so the roof gapes.
    5 A policeman. Polite.
    Wearing visored cap.
    6 O unrolling,
    tape of ambiguous length
    on which is written the mystery
    of everything curly.
    7 A step,
    detached from its stair.
    8 The universe in diagram:
    A cosmic hourglass.
    (Note enigmatic shape,
    absence of any valve of origin,
    how end overlaps beginning.)
    Unknotted like a shoelace
    and whipped back and forth,
    can serve as a model of time.
    9 Lorgnette for the right eye.
    In England or if you are Alice
    the stem is on the left.
    10 A grass blade or a cut
    companioned by a mouth.
    Open? Open. Shut? Shut.
    (Report)Reply

    4 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • (1/10/2014 12:02:00 PM)

    Hi there......you forgot to include the numbers to the left, which is pretty integral to this poem. (Report)Reply

    Fabrizio Frosini(12/6/2015 1:08:00 PM)

    right, Deidre.. so, I've posted the original..

    1 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 1, 2010



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