The Swans

Prologue:
We have always compared ourselves to ugly ducklings.

I.
After the swans had surrounded us
we headed home

Grabbed bicycles and adjusted helmet straps and
got back on the trail,

to land, smack dab eventually
in our kitchen

As if all of this had been nothing out of the ordinary.

I said,
“Did you put the cheese in the fridge.”

I said,
“We’ll wash those later.”

Plastic plates clattered in the sink.
I washed the sunscreen off my face, brushed
sand and grass off bare legs.

Darling did you see the swans?

II.
I had never been so close to one
ever in my life

Let alone twenty of them.

A whiteness of swans
says the online encyclopedia (citation needed)

an exultation of skylarks, a doading of sheldrakes, a
phalanx
of storks

(We are running out of words,
and these entries are proof

Someday we will discover a very small insect
and have to call it shark.)

III.
When we first came upon them I was enchanted —
A whole whiteness of them!

Gilding the glassy surface of Spy Pond
these pale ballerinas with treble clef necks
snowy and copper-mouthed

I sat down on that rock to watch
and at that moment I would have said yes to anything

I thought they were a sign
A message to me, personally:

Why do you keep forgetting

Why don’t you leave the house

The swans glided toward us, the whole whiteness of them. Ducks and geese made room. I was replete

with a million yes-es

oh, anyone could have asked.

IV.
Have you ever seen a swan out of water?

Well.

As it takes its few wobbly steps
onto land
it straightens its treble clef neck, pulls its terrible head up high

and effectively becomes
an albino snake
wriggling in the breeze.

They stand there squonking, the whole whiteness of them
quivering in sandmuck
on tiny orange peel legs

They gorge themselves on
lake weeds, sharp and green
covered in mud and smelling of rot

What is this thing, you ask
how did this happen.

Squonk squonk squonk! the swans reply.

Swans are
a thickness, an overjuiced bicep, all bulging, black eyes like angry ink spills
peering into your own, bill gaping

as if this were their dying wish,

as if this is all they had to say to you
get the fuck out

V.
A hernia of swans, I suggest. An apocalypse.

You rinse the wine glasses and leave them to dry on the counter.
We change into pajama pants
and glance through stacks of DVDs

Outside, their wings are beating.

They glide
back into the lake.

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