Carpentry and poetry

rose swartz 1

Rose Swartz is a writer and visual artist from Kalamazoo, Michigan, currently living in Portland, Oregon.

Life is full of coincidences, isn’t it?

In early November, I drove out to an industrial park in Northeast Portland to do a story about the progress being made in Oregon placing women in apprenticeship programs.

In a room full of women at the Sheet Metal Institute, I found myself next to Rose Swartz, a 32-year-old former English teacher, originally from Michigan, who was now hoping to become a carpenter.

“I feel optimistic, but I also feel it’s really hard work,” she told me. “I don’t have any misconceptions.”

After the story was published, I got in touch with her again, thinking that once she completed her pre-apprenticeship class she’d make a great subject for a followup interview focusing on the transition from the classroom to a blue-collar trade.

Rose agreed to the idea and I made tentative plans to contact her early this year. That plan went out the window, however, when I took the buyout offer to retire at the end of 2015.

Fast forward to late January.

My Orcas Island writer friend Jennifer Brennock posted a Facebook blurb about a poetry reading she had organized in Eastsound for late February.

The program would be the first featured reading by an artist affiliated with Drop Out on Orcas, a new residential program for writers and other creatives. Through Jennifer’s efforts, there is now a destination on the east end of the island for people to work on their art in no-tech solitude.

The blurb said: “Rose Swartz will read from her latest offering, “Panhandle,” a letterpress chapbook. Rose will be coming from Portland to join us.”

I did a double take.

Holy crap!” I wrote. “Is this the same Rose Swartz I interviewed during a Women in Apprenticeships program?”

“Oh wow, yes it is,” Rose confirmed.

If that weren’t coincidence enough, this past Friday was my turn to contribute to the neighborhood poetry post maintained by our little community of townhouse residents.

It was an easy choice. I turned to and came up with “Half-Fish Daughter,” originally published by Silver Birch Press.

I share it here, courtesy of Rose (who goes by Rosa in her published work):

by Rosa Swartz

At first frost I vacate the pond,
hooks and barbs wedged in the shadows of my flesh.
Asleep in winter’s wool blankets
dry beds of hot air scrape tears in my scales,
my pulse swoops into a murky scream.
Below the bridge at Wolf Creek,
my body swims away
each morning leaving just a raincoat,
the wind that slaps the maple trees.

Lori and I won’t be on Orcas until the spring, so we’ll miss this Feb. 28 reading. Along with sending best wishes for a good turnout, I hope another opportunity pops up to hear and see Rose — on the island or the mainland.

Photographs: Drop Out on Orcas



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