In 2009, Governor Chet Culver appointed Mary Swander the Poet Laureate of the State of Iowa. Swander is the author of four books of poetry, her most recent being The Girls on the Roof (Turning Point/Word Tech, 2009), a Mississippi River flood narrative.

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A few hours after Des Moines
the toilet overflowed.
This wasn't the adventure it sounds.

I sat with a man whose tattoos
weighed more than I did.
He played Hendrix on mouth guitar.
His Electric Ladyland lips
weren't fast enough
and if pitch and melody
are the rudiments of music,
this was just
memory, a body
All night I flew the dark recess of God's mind.
It was arranged like Iowa fields--

not a damn thing missing.
You ask how I survived.

I lived on a message, broad light
at the end of the world.

Words, they have so much in common with departure,

the clouds elliptical & nervous.
Why translate? It's just a


Before there was the time we see
there was the time we saw through,
when the biggest bear lied down,
exhaled the boundary of herself—
woof!—and rolled onto her side.

Her family followed in a line,
bending like an oxbow lake,
crocheting holes in the land