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  • Julia Alter

The Ballad of Swilt Jack

by Julia Alter

Artwork created by ZephyrZ
Artwork created by ZephyrZ

Child of coyote howl & sediment

spilling down a ravine

Nobody’s friend

friend of nothing


but crackled wind turning a cheek

ruddy & bloodshot

A boy

growing up

with bulls & bucks

& dark flowers

A boy who learned early

how meat is made

Once you know blood

like that you carry it

for life


eyes rare another human ever sees you

wide open

Squinted up on account of the sun

slanting off

another sorrow

A mountain rider

a heart that gets cracked in half

by a blade

of grass An American

a mustang on a switchback

A stack of horseshoes in a barn

A communion of dust

Of grief Of rust

A river with its mouth

silted up a river

with no mouth to speak of


Julia C. Alter holds an MFA in Poetry from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and has appeared in journals including The Raleigh Review, Sixth Finch, Crab Creek Review, Foundry, CALYX, Gigantic Sequins, The Boiler, etc. She lives in Vermont with her son.

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