Todd Swift

I'm Not Swift

I don’t want to be me.
Can I be you?
My eyes are brown,
let’s make them blue.

I can't climb trees,
but this time I will.
My beliefs are Christian,
I will pray like a Hindu.

I want to be a girl
who lives in Paris, France.
I will learn to dance.
I don’t speak Cantonese.

But if you give me permission
I would like to, please.
I’d like to understand machines.
I’d like to earn more green.

I vote for the good.
Now I vote for the bad.
I have had sex too little or too much
depending on your views.

I worship a statue
that towers over the misread.
I fear the living a bit,
and don’t want to be dead.

I dream of an island far from land;
it snows there constantly.
There are only two hundred souls
on this island off of the Cape

and the steamboat takes
two months to steam there at top speed.
I want to tend goats there
and grow my hair like a girl’s.

They’d call me Captain Pirate and wink
thinking I’d robbed a bank back home.
My home is not my own.
I dream of being another one;

I’d like to have a different name and role.
I have a passport that’s been torn.
Tape it up backwards, upside down.
That’s a frown. That’s a judge’s gown.

I dream I am you at night
and require tablets in the morning to cope.
I need the sun. I need the father.
I need to forget the mother.

I did a few things that could be called wrong.
I wish I’d penned that song.
I want to run like that fast man.
I'd like to grow a beard as long as the alphabet.

I haven’t met myself yet.
How are you, Miss?
May I exchange my pointy shoes for
your nine inch stilettos?

I was at the war office; did you see me
try to pour the gin?
I have my tickets for Tristan Island.
Or maybe I will go to Cocoa beach

to watch the rockets launch
into the evening sky.
I have my beach chair and my cap.
I am able to cheer and clap

and tan well. I am not Swift.
I am Dr Slow.
There is nothing about me
you need to know

except I am part of a world
of the mind
that had to go; it had a life,
that life was broken

and when it got repaired
it lost a lot of its hair.
There were some shelves
that had nudes and rhymes

on them; and a doll with one eye
and it was Japanese.
There was a brain cancer scare
and a man strapped to a gurney.

I recall screams and a turnkey.
I was not Wilde or at his trial.
I never helped Otis or Schindler.
I was leery of Himmler.

I did not invent an atom smashing device;
hardly chipped the ice.
I was not a sculptor from Mexico.
I was not there at all in the South.

I married a woman who was beautiful
and offered vows
then drove in a vintage car
down a lane with trees.

I did not climb them then.
I am the boy they passed around
and abused. I won't detail
the blindfold and the chains.

I have not forgiven or recovered
and that wasn’t me anyway.
My body was not present
that good day

when I was three
and some blood got released
on the kindergarten floor
and still at 50 I recoil

from the glancing touch
of a lover or a friend.
That wasn’t me.
This is the end.

May I be someone without a story
or a need to change?
I’d like to have one goal;
perhaps revenge or repair.

Let me chip dead paint from your windowsill
and clean it up afterwards.
I'd be a good workman.
I'd sleep and smoke cigars.

May I request the pleasure
of my disappearance
tomorrow at the ball
where we will remove our alibis

and become the person
theology expected of us; with larger noses.
Kiss me on your lips.
Sway those convincing hips.

I was rock before roll.
I was bread before butter.
I am a mutter and a convincing convict;
undo my stripes and lick the nipples.

If we agree to a prisoner swap
I will be out by teatime
and sail to China
for a little nap and tickle.

I am not you, so go.
My name is forgotten
in the sands of rhyme.
What’s the noise? It may be angels

coming to get me.
Or a film crew with a tax break.
Bite off the head of the snake
and grow a dragon claw.

Lie with snails and snip
at scissors for fun.
I walk on lemonade and slip
between the waiters like a knife.

I am the mansion you burnt to the ground.
You’re the eerie sound. The lilt
of rain when it stops to know its place.
I want your face, your lessons in gravitas.

All this has come to pass.
All the pass is closed for snow.
I leap off a steamboat
to row among the sharks.

I loved too many, or too few
depending on your point of view.
I don’t want to be me.
Can I be you?

TODD SWIFT is Editorial and Managing Director of Eyewear Publishing Ltd, an indie press based in London, UK. His critical writing has appeared in Poetry and The Battersea Review, as has his poetry, among other leading journals. His latest collection is a Selected from Marick Press, USA. He holds a PhD from the UEA in creative and critical writing, focused on Modern British poetry and poetics of the 1940s.