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Patrick Swaney


I’m traveling and need to travel

lighter so I ship a package

across the country to myself.

I fill out my name twice. Neatly

creating two versions of myself:

one here and one there, eventually.

Somewhere behind me in line,

a woman sneezes. The man

behind the counter says, “I salute you.”

“Thanks,” the woman says. “See,

I’m not religious,” the man says to me,

“so I don’t say bless you.”

“I see,” I say. I guess I do,

but I see it mostly as an opportunity

for the man to announce

his position on religion,

a small explanation offered

with every sneeze, a small

claim of identity with every salute.

He appears satisfied. It takes me two days

to travel home. It takes the package

three. I don’t think much

of the package as it goes, as I go,

parallel paths at separate speeds.

I don’t think much of sent and received,

of who’s arriving where and when.

I don’t think much of the difference.


Patrick Swaney's first poetry collection, Hand Over Hand Over the Edge of the World, is forthcoming in 2024 from YesYes Books. He teaches literature and creative writing at Catawba College. His writing has appeared in Boulevard, Conduit, The Southeast Review, and elsewhere.


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