TWO SWANS IN A POND NEXT TO THE HIGHWAY
They have chosen well, these two
swans, one swimming the circumference of
the water, its neck a parenthesis,
the other preening its feathers white
as the steamy smoke boiling out
of the stack on the roof of the aluminum
can factory on the other side of the pond.
They have chosen wisely, these two
swans, for what do they have to fear here?
A motorist having a stroke or heart attack
and losing control of his car? Not likely.
A stupid teenager with a rifle taking pot
shots at them in the middle of the night?
Less likely. A sudden and violent down
draft blowing that toxic cloud over them?
Least likely of all. How unlike ourselves,
who have also chosen. The highway.
The car. The rifle. The smoke.
When the four emerged from the eggs, I knew the odds.
One or two would make it.
The others would not escape the hawks or the foxes or the big snappers.
Today, weeks later, I saw them in the lake.
The two cygnets and the parents were feeding among the lily pads.
With their curved necks and bowed heads, the adults looked like they were praying.
but because their necks were not curved in prayer,
and because their heads were not bowed in prayer, I prayed.
I prayed to the double deity.
I prayed to the god of long and painful hunger.
I prayed to the goddess of swift and painless death.
I prayed this prayer:
You have your half.
Now let them have their half.
Let them have these for whom they have worked so hard.
Let them have these for whom they have been so patient.
Spare these for the sake of the curved necks.
Spare these for the sake of the bowed heads.
Spare these for the sake of the gliding of beauty.
Spare these for the sake of the gilding of white.
J.R. SOLONCHE has been publishing in magazines and anthologies since the early 70s. He is author of Beautiful Day (Deerbrook Editions, 2015) and coauthor of Peach Girl: Poems for a Chinese Daughter (Grayson Books, 2002).