Lisa Bickmore is a published poet and teaches at Salt Lake Community College

Poem: Mother of Swords by Lisa Bickmore


Lisa Bickmore is the author of three books of poetry, most recently Ephemerist (Red Mountain Press, 2017), and teaches writing of all kinds at Salt Lake Community College

Mother of Swords


The big riffle signals stones, and where

to step with care, my father tells me:

he remembers fishing with his father

in the mouth of the canyon, their feet

knowing a sure road beneath the water,


its plait and loosening: still, they kept

their waders well, mended them when a stone

tore the rubber, the caddis and nymph flies

sorted in the tackle box, the creels cleaned

after each catch, so the canvas smelled


only of river and not of fish rot.

Still, the world waits for the stagger, as when

he, a man in full, cycled through a cloud

of bees. He says, Of course I got stung.

Of course—the bees were the surprise, not


the sting: and now it is not the body,

always fallible, but the insult

to the brain’s vessels, the mean twist and pop,

the muscles on the left side having

forgotten their former habits. He sits


on a bench, lifts weights, his therapist

his mirror: each lifts, level on both sides,

though for my father, the one arm lags.

I listen as the therapist remembers:

I left an open can of soda.


I must have been ten. And when I took

a sip, I felt something wrong: and when I

opened my mouth to spit, it stung my tongue

and flew away. If bees could spite themselves,

that’s what it did, I thought, as I drove home.


Clouds wreathed the crest of the range to my east.

These stories witch water and admonish:

in tonight’s cards I turn up a queen

who sits in profile, her crown a circlet

of butterflies, but she holds a long sword


erect in her right hand. So stern I think

she’ll turn, look straight at me, say, a cloud

that swarms might be your proper atmosphere.

Say, watch your step: the river keeps blades.

Say, let your tongue hive a comb for bees.


Lisa Bickmore

More on

Sound, Symbolism & Meter: Utah Poetry — Rock Canyon Poets
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