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Swans

 

The swans like wrecks in battle run

Aground upon this beach,

And bending bathers reach

For them with half a breakfast bun.

 

The fifty swans of Starnberger See

Have lost their dignity,

And it is sad to see

Them flock beneath the Strand Cafe.

 

I linger on this shored defiled

By waste and cannot tell

The lame swans from the well

Or know the tame ones from the wild.

 

Perhaps there is no difference left,

Unless in summary things:

A blurring of the wings,

A different smell where they have slept.

 

All day I look for one that holds

Away from shore and brings

The vessel of his wings

Into the far ravine, which folds

 

Around these waters like a hand;

Like him I'd hold apart,

Refuse the sticky tart

They have uprooted from the sand.

 

Their loveliness is all a braid

Of everything I loveó

What I'm complaining of

Is how we stoop and try to trade

 

A crust against that white estate

Which is forever lost

To everyone who tossed

Them bread and sat out talking late.

 

This transit of the trees and light

Whose changing crystal hones

The quality of stones

Into their evening, glancing height,

 

These stars asleep in chrome and keys

On shores where lovers park

And elevate the dark

With shadows onto rowing knees,

 

These things themselves, and rays that link

In commerce every end

Of human sight, descend

Back to their surfaces and sink,

 

As fifty swans compete for bread

From hands incautious of

The human way they shove

Into their circus to be fed.

 

Anthony Lombardy

 

 

From Severe, Bennett & Kitchel, publishers, © 1995.
Originally published in The New Yorker.  Reprinted
by permission of the author.

Background
by Grapholina


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