Swan Song

A bunch of old snakeheads down by the pond
carrying on the swan tradition -- hissing
inside their white bodies, raising and lowering their heads
like ostriches, regretting only the sad ritual
that forced them to waddle back into the water
after their life under the rocks, wishing they could lie again
in the sun

and dream of spreading their terrifying wings;
wishing, this time, they could sail through the sky like
horses,
their tails rigid, their white manes fluttering,
their mouths open, their sharp teeth flashing,
drops of mercy pouring from their eyes,
bolts of wisdom from their foreheads.

by Gerald Stern

Other poems of STERN (42)

Comments (8)

Sadly and honestly, the poem went over my head; but thanks to the comment of Lantz Pierre, I understood some bit of it after a second reading and wondered at how a poet sees things that ordinary mortals do not, and how he can express his thoughts and realizations that the latter cannot!
without an explanation, i'm confused about what kind of animal the poem is describing. i just looked it up, snakeheads are a kind of fish, an invasive species. like swans? white? waddling? ...? ? ? and as a poem, speaking of its craft—? ? ? -gk
Very imaginative perfectly penned piece. 👍
Loved the poem about the swans. Beautifully crafted.Thanks for sharing.
Beautiful poem on swan having touching expression. It is right to be chosen poem of the day.
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