The Swan
Ellin Anderson


That garden where we knew the quiet moods
Of light and seasons is forever lost
To quietness: a factory intrudes
Within the span of winter weeds and frost,
And spins our idle hours into gold.
Once more, I see you stand to cross the lawn.
Once more, the flowered banks rise to enfold
An emerald lake that holds a gentle swan;
And snowdrops open to embrace the thaw,
Defying Time, who turns all flowers to straw.
Our haven had no pond or lily-pool
To frame your face and show the sun true power,
But summer fountains blessed us through the cool
Quicksilver haze of every passing shower
That hurried down the valley just to seek
Your thirsty roses, or sent drops to rest
Against the harlequin viola's cheek,
And left her colors painted in the west -
Rain-freshened maple with the spangled bough,
What sweet reflections can refresh me now?
White peonies upon the sea of grass
Concealed a shaft that held a golden ball.
I saw two dolls within the mirrored glass:
A wizard's oracle, revealing all.
If magic rang the Canterbury bells,
And set the rowan in a ring of fire,
And made birds sing the fairy chant that tells
Where beauty sleeps beyond a hedge of briar,
It also brought the gift of clarity
That whispers, "Wake and choose what you will be."
The clothesline where your snowy banners flew,
The berry bushes, high as I could reach,
The tranquil household where you warbled through
Your simple duties, adding grace to each!
That was our little world, a sheltered space
Where kindness gave me faith enough to read
The signs of hope that fill a barren place:
A ragged nest, the pod that hides a seed
In ruined gardens, wild and overgrown
With ash and maple that the wind has sown.
Drenched by the rain, without a veil to shield
Her face from pilgrims' kisses or the weather,
A sculpted saint left fading in a field
Became a swan and skimmed above the heather.
The sun was cold, the sky was frosted grey;
Ice follows frost, and swans know when to fly;
When autumn comes to me, I'll fly away,
But I will make you live before I die,
And on the page, your heartbeat will release
A whisper, like soft wings that tell of peace.


Published in The Longfellow Journal, Volume XIII
© Ellin Anderson
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be copied or used in any way without written permission from the author.

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