A Swan from Prague
I was making my way in halfsteps across a bridge
In that city of bridges, and met coming my way,
Looking head-on like a fat white ham with wings,
A swan in flight, waist high, at the bridge crest.
I was inching along as the swan with its yard-long neck
Towed its floating midriff in air speeding past.
Lost, it wanted back to the city’s river,
A river with two names in opposing tongues.
I looked ahead and saw some police laughing
At the wings going mad and the paddle-feet tucked.
I could not remember not being in pain,
Not being a man with bone spurs gouging his hip.
In that city of memorials, among memorials
Of immolation and metamorphosis,
I thought about this place in history—
I’d seen the altered road signs from ’68,
I’d seen the thugs in videos of ’89—
And knew for this span of time there was no place.
The police saw me leaning and halting
And turned to watch the swan, as I did,
All of us grateful to be distracted.
And I was sure that they, the laughing police,
Imagined that whatever my trouble was—drunkenness,
Disability—it would take care of itself,
And that the bird would come to rest again
On the river, the river of clashing names.
I told my wife this story, and as a memento
She gave me a solid bubble of Czech crystal,
A lovely blue-headed swan which rides
Now on a shifting river of paper.
by Mark Jarman
from Blackbird, Fall 2011, Vol. 10 No. 2