The Swan of the Body, Falling

Often a body wears out
so that it is luminous
from the inside out,

the way the labial fold

of the rose-petal conch


refracts light, the ordinary

rough carapace

weathering smooth.

And the pearl then,

seeping nectar,

slipped from its husk,

memento mori

at the hem of the tide.


We have misgivings

about the body—its taut

daybreak nascence, is it habitable?

Yet we test it

against water, air,

the sheer and snow-laced

summit's face.


We ask of it:

be as strong-backed

as the  Andalusian  mare 

lifting high 

her polished hooves.

Portage our dreams.

Bear us from our torpor.


Will it hold, this business

of touch--

if I clasp your hand

will your fingers transmit

courage, supply me

with life attenuated,

chlorophyll, oxygen?


For it seems the wild swans

fill with light and exult

in midair, feeding each other

with their long callings and cries


when the solitary heart needs

its blood typed, shunt inset

for the sake of its drum beat,

its earth-held pulse.


When the body's winter comes,

we will ourselves over frost-slick

stones; when we cry out

in the long night,

the surging tide beckons,

seeking to test our breath:



How long may I buoy you

on my green swells.

How weightless you are in me,

your hair once more


swirling and dark,

your breasts full and white;

how I call back all

you thought you lost.


(from Blackbirds Dance in the Empire of Love, 2013)