1. The Swans
I was afraid I had hurt something.
Maybe even killed it.
When I sat down, something struggled hard against me.
So I stepped back to watch the floral pattern shimmer,
Then, the cushion lift like a lid from a boxed gift. Beneath me,
The two swans were sleeping, graceful
As an urn. The long handles of their throats
Curved into each other, warm and incubated
Against the snowy-white.
Near the shepherd’s staff of their necks,
Were the rose-tinged feathers
Charged with bright blood.
The glow of a sunset disappearing into
The disorder of a dark forest.
Softly, I tried to waken them.
Their mouths opened and wagged with black tongues.
The swans spat at me. The nest hissed.
2. The Black Pond
As the seduction of water finally took leave
Of its senses, a burning eye
Set fire to the woods, roused
The elegiac stomach of the pond
Into heaving until its vapors spiraled upward
To expire inside the skein of a cloud.
In the dream, I am walking. There is the black pond
And nothing else. There is the black pond, the swans
And nothing else. There is the black pond, the exhalation
Of stars, the swans and nothing else. There are the swans,
Their reed voices fencing in the woods, there is the pond,
A littering of stars and nothing else. Truly this is the way,
Drifting into blackness, listening to the low
Rustle of swans across the clearing, the slow
Unfolding of their wings like paper wrappings,
Revealing themselves as flushed bodies
Which never touch the surface, the swans never waking
To the gold leprosy of starlight on the water
Its fathoms wrestling them down
As the only way out.
3. The Sleeper
Something flies from my body.
Outside in the clearing, angels wrestle
Slabs of granite. Their feathers are the black of magpie
Wings. From their temples pours the irreversible
Light. It is the way water leaves, recovers itself, moves on
As if nothing went wrong.
The angels walk among the darkened headstones,
Their figures thick with a fullness of light
They wear like armor. Beneath the long ripple
Of skins, bodies go to gases in the ground.
And still they work, lugging the burden
Of crouched lambs, crosses, polishing
The plain upturned faces of the dead.
I am a lamp at the window. The moon
In a white sling glides behind the closed
Shutter of clouds. Now angels rest
Beyond the black periphery of the pond.
Some light in trees and wear velvet slippers.
Others laugh, choke, smoke
Opium cigarettes. Their fingers are a blur
There is one I recognize. His alabaster shoulders
Smoothed by feathers, snakes of tangled
Hair, dark eyes lit by tapers. The way
He looks at me stirs my face
Into many disguises.
The angel draws close with breath
Of lilacs and icy air against my brow.
As he presses my lips through the glass
I fear I must surrender to gladness.
If I grant your wish, you must never tell,
The angel whispers in a man’s voice
And takes back his smoking hand.