The wall beside the Queen’s pond was adept
at keeping undesirables out; swans
flew in and landed with their huge wing spans:
enough to break a man’s arm if unkempt.
The eldest woman on castle grounds sat
and watched them every day for silken hours,
her hair was white as snow, her eyes water-
green, as she sat and stroked a long-haired cat.
Her wildest prayers she would enunciate,
and her hands were painfully gnarled I guessed,
she believed transformation was reeling
its answers in the form of art quite late—
the swans were poets: spirits effortless
at self-love, where she had little feeling.
She wrote like the web and was very old,
of a spider’s haunt, the delicate dew
hung from each strand of her mind, not askew,
although her bun contained the whisps of cold.
Elegant swans hated the velvet hounds,
the populace thought they were causing war,
disastrous occurrences, even far
off prophecies had already been found
innocent by church theology, they
only predict the future, not cause it.
Merciless, blood hounds chased down every
miserable chaste bird and made it prey;
people of Poland were not opposed, writ
words given up, eating succulent flesh.
For swans are faithful creatures, dedicate
their lives to one spouse, and raise their cygnets
splashing into the waters, calm there met:
their words are harsh and hiss, relegated
to a library stack with fearsome beaks.
Habitual mornings are somewhat poor;
half past seven, they arrive asking for
breakfast. Their host in a house is the meek
Parish Priest, he put the swans under his
protection from twelfth century’s blood:
it is illegal to harm a swan, white,
black, or any colour—the webbed feet, a Liszt
in sleight of hand upon the keys, there could
be no other, the master, the maestro’s bride.
It is treason to hurt or maim molten
swans—played each key with firm finality
and to one soul it resounded teary
into eternity, her one stolen
perfume, that languishing fragrance of youth
when she brought a young blond runaway home
and let her sleep on the couch like a poem
for a few hours into morning. Uncouth,
we lifted our heads in the corn fields, dark
eyes watched a girl running in a sundress
until tears streamed down our faces, music
this beautiful is the texture of bark
on an oak tree, no longer are you less
for living vicariously, physic.
There is one remedy, lest you drive a
swan to its death. There are a host of tar-
black tutus that to the wood ballet barre
exact a plie in sequence, a way
so each candle in the wind bright flickers,
built up to its highest goals’ aptitude,
eventually dies in solitude.
She first bends supple, like a grey cygnet,
in imitation of the older dance,
wrinkled seeds, dancers who have come before,
deep in the ground were rooted in bras bas.
The ballet grows to a thousand’s applause,
green Earth’s oldest tree could not be deformed,
subtle rejection grew its desert claws.
On the dun outskirts of society,
she had suffered every rejection known
to humankind, there was no more wind-blown
morality to impropriety.
Was she now oil or wine, the verse would look;
and the vineyard ran purple with royal
colours, the swollen grapes bursting from toil,
the ground was sandstone and red underfoot.
The sun, setting at the eleventh hour,
it was night and the young woman, olive
in a cape rang the bell. There was silence.
She would come again, there would be power
when the young swan would know the liturgy;
she would dance without you seeing, the blind
blue eyes of chance and fate would throw their die,
she continued on without them, quite meek.
A swan’s concerted effort at swimming
is made to look quite effortless, seeming
a quiet glide through waters deep, reeming
at a classroom of old notions, dimming
lanterns with olive oil, lighting the way
by new commitments and new trust in love
that makes us human, singular above
dependency and mentoring our stay
on earth here for awhile: we are alive,
we felt pain, and knew what it was to be
swans and sacrifice for what we believed
in. We went hungry, were unrealized,
we fed the children of tomorrow, sea
swept lives full of memories, now retrieved.