"THE SWIFT" (UNPUBLISHED)
In this draft of “The Swift,” we see the work of a truly masterful wordsmith who manages to actualize the highly intricate processes of metamorphosis and transubstantiation through perfectly plainspoken, direct language. Welch imagines Dutch’s love for speed and passion for race as an epic soul-flight, a beautiful rebirth in which his life force is best described as the “wild” and “clicking” sear of a swift. As his “father tried to fit life back in that bird,” we can’t help but compare this heart-wrenchingly faithful gesture as allegorical to the good run Dutch had. In the most literal sense, Dutch coached as long as he could, until he made the career change necessary to support his family. And on the figurative path, where the poet runs, Dutch’s “darting,” like the run we all make, was timed after all--finally overtaken by that “that rock of hard truth” of life. Welch makes “The Swift” sing with his signature command of movement, a steady and true “quickening” that balances “featherless” between the wings of emotion and image. Simultaneously scientific and spiritual, at once electric and simple, “laced / with speed and good blood.”
This poem was later significantly revised without reference to Dutch and published as "The Swift" in the collection A Brief History of Feathers (1996).