Russell Thornton


Nest of the Swan's Bones


She will build a nest of the swan's bones...
- Robinson Jeffers, 'Shiva'


High in the blue air above the dumpster in the back lane,
between the mountains and the tidal flats,
on the thermals and updrafts a summer hawk does slow turns.

The crows pick at the waste on the asphalt.
The men push jingling shopping carts. Or stand and mimic life
in a prison yard. The wild white swan is dead. Where I caught

trout as a child, no trout swim now. The drives
and crescents gouge ravines, make creeks disappear. Where wild
baby fish run, they run the gauntlet of penned fish. They are eaten alive,

eyes popping out as sea lice eat feed inside their heads.
The hawk dances. Circles, dances. Its shadow flits
unnoticed across men, spreads over a rodent or bird

it dives to, inserts claws into, and clamps large feet on, stomping it
as if beating time. It splays flesh and flies
away with it into the sunlight. The hawk takes up an owl's hoot

and a sparrow's last chirp, a heron's bill-snap and a smelt's silence,
into its disinterested scream. The swan
glides in beauty in the hawk's sight, and fills all the hawk sees

with brilliant, blinding whiteness. Moment by moment,
the men go back and forth. They search out anythign they can trade
for a full bottle or syringe or pipe. In my room with the lit up screen,

I lie and dream my dream. I feel it must also be God's,
this dream of the person of persons. Where the dream comes through,
it punctures me, and I breathe dark air. The air thuds

into pockets like a plummeted elevator. O monster home. O
specialty wine outlet. O auto mall. The wild white swan
is dead. The hawk hunts and kills the swan for love. It will build a new

nest of the swan's bones. It will keep this nest unseen.
I am a person, I soil the cage in which my heart flings
and flings itself against the bars. I try to own

the view of every murderer, and yet I try to sing
the way out through the hawk's claw holes to the repose
in the nest of fire at the tip of the hawk's wing.

Submitted: Saturday, October 25, 2008
Edited: Wednesday, January 30, 2013

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