All that summer the sun refused to open
On the sky, and the river carried rain-spots
Down and over the weir, and by the footbridge
Swans’ eggs chilled in their nest. I saw them, rained on,
Blue and dead as the moon the clouds were hiding
Every night when I looked to find it. What could
Live, neglected like that? The wind, cold and green
With the smell of the hawthorn flowering, came
Brooding over the fens, but what could it bring me,
Who had chosen to view the world with sadness,
Or had taken that sadness into myself,
Gift and charism? One day, though, I saw them,
Triple vee-wakes on dark tree-printed currents:
One ahead of the others, big and whiter
Than the cloud-pale sky. Two cygnets, gray, living,
Broken free from the death I’d assumed for them.
Well: their ways are not my ways. The next summer,
Walking that same towpath, heavy with a child
Who had come to me after years of asking —
Who was taking his time just then, head downward,
Happy where he was — I saw them paddling
Under the bridge, where it laid out its shadow,
Current-rumpled. The same swans? Or three strangers
Hummed down onto a river pricked with sunlight,
Strange and new as the season? I can’t say now.
I remember the baby’s head engaging,
Heavy, ready, real, an impending pressure.
I remember the wakes widening, river
Flowing down in the sun, and by the footbridge,
Gray, empty, the mess of twigs, leaves, and feathers.
by Sally Thomas
Editor’s Note: Beautiful and concise imagery carries the reader into depression and then back out again as the speaker in this narrative poem makes her own surprising journey from despair to hope.
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