The Memory Box is a compilation of one man’s storied life, including riding his beloved horse in the San Francisco Bay area, falling in love in Australia, serving in Vietnam, and surviving cancer and depression in Kansas through poetry. Come open this memory box to find your own treasures.

Buy your copy now for $15 + $3 shipping here.

“From deep within the memory box of his life, John Swainston unearths and shares moments of great tenderness, daring adventures, astute observations, and courageous reckonings on what it means to be a man in his time. His wit and honesty shines through his voice, no matter if he’s in the Australian bush, the Vietnamese jungle, the city streets of the Bay area, or in small-town Kansas.” ~ Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Kansas Poet Laureate Emerita and author of How Time Moves: New and Collected Poems

The Memory Box holds more than memories of a growing child, a young man, military service, travels, illness, and healing. It contains insights drawn from a lifetime of beauty and challenges, hopes and fears. It’s a legacy for us all. ~ Mary-Lane Kamberg, author of Seed Rain

“Here we have a delightful Memory Box of direct, accessible, well-crafted, often snappy, always straight-from-the-shoulder poems chronicling a wide array of deeply felt experiences over a long, eventful, bravely-lived lifetime.” ~ Bob Savino, author of Report From The Frontier and Caresses and Wounds; co-founder of the original Prospero’s Pit Open Mic and the Mystic Poets Society.

“From childhood memories, which many of us can relate to, through the wandering years of his youth and time spent in service, we journey with John. We are made aware of the joy of family, the challenges of illness and the value of lessons learned. John indeed writes of what he knows and we are privileged to witness that experience.” ~ Lou Eisenbrandt, author of Vietnam Nurse: Mending and Remembering and Unsteady as She Goes: Battling Parkinson’s After Vietnam.

Buy your signed copy of The Memory Box for $15 + $3 shipping directly from the author.

John’s Poetry

John’s poetry has been published in Veterans’ Voices, eMerge, and the Journal of Expressive Writing. Here are links to some of his publications:

  • The Awakening,” “The Mask,” “Pandemic #3,” and “Storm” in eMerge Magazine
  • Charlie” and “She Walks Alone” in the Journal of Expressive Writing
  • “Vietnam Memories #1” (Editor’s Awards), “We Never Learn,” “An Encounter,” “New Year’s Eye 1965,” and “You Send Me” in Veterans’ Voices
  • “The Pandemic Walk” and “Song of the Pandemic” in Blue Hole 2021, published by Georgeton (9TX Poetry Festival 2021
  • “Old Barn” (Ekphrastic Poetry Contest 3rd place winner), “Six Word Poems,” and “Come Dance” in Flapper Press.
  • “Getting Lucky” in The Write Bridge (p. 33)

Here are some samples from his book, The Memory Box.

Charlie Horse

Charlie was my Horse.

Stubborn as a mule.  

He always stopped to eat.

Not moving until he was done.

An hour’s ride was always two.

His only gait a slow walk, 

searching for a new spot to graze.

On that beach we would ride.  

The sound of a drum as each hoof

struck the water always made me laugh, 

how fast he moved although 

there was no food to eat on the beach.

When I put on the saddle, turned my back 

to cinch it up, he would nip me on my butt

to hurry up. I learned a carrot

in the back pocket saved a bruise.

So when I die, I hope we will meet again, 

on that beach. But now I wonder,

do they allow horses in heaven?

If they do not, let me say for sure,

I want to go where they go.

Kindness Given

Walking down the circular path

to the vaulted room: radiation treatment.

Turning the corner, she looked up,

smiling at me. She just finished 

her treatment was seventh or eighth, I think.

Snuggled in her arm, she carried a Teddy Bear.

“Does that help?” I asked. She smiled, “Yes.”

The next day, walking the path, there he was, 

sitting on the hand rail: her Teddy Bear. 

“Oh no, look she forgot her bear.”

“No, she didn’t.”

I looked at the tech confused.

“No, she left him for you.”

My dad always told me that real men 

do not cry. But I did.

And yes, it helped.

Leo J. Ryan

Murdered on the tarmac:

Jonestown, Guyana, South America,

November 18, 1978.

He wanted to save those captured 

by cult leader Jim Jones, the self-proclaimed

messiah of the Peoples Temple, 

a San Francisco evangelist group.

But he failed by order of that devil,

becoming the second congressman

to be assassinated in office.

Before Mr. Ryan became a congressman.

He was my teacher at Capuchino High School.

He taught me how to drive. He taught me 

about politics and politicians, took a group of us 

to a Kennedy rally in 1960. I would work 

at a Kennedy election headquarters,

after being introduced by Mr. Ryan.

He treated all students with respect,

even the ones that did not return that respect.

When around him I felt like a man.

The day he died, I cried. 

My Storm

Cancer was my storm.

First came the lightning:

You have cancer.

Then came the thunder:

You are in treatment: Radiation.

Pounding on your body. Finally, the rain: 

Cleansing rain, putting out the fire.

Washing it all away.

The storm is gone,

the damage done.

Now it is time to build again.

Thanks for visiting. Connect with John here to learn more about his poetry presentations or to get a copy of his book, The Memory Box.