Swan

by Gary Holthaus

Here in the damp hollows of the spirit,
sits a swan, head tucked under wing,
a token of repose. At dawn this
swan — I shall continue to call him —
in a waking moment, lifts his head.

The black stripe under his jaw is
damp with morning, the wings, raised, make
hollows along his back, and the top
of his head just breaks the sky where
the fog-stilled shore seems more
spirit than any exact geography.

The beaver swimming invisibly at
top fear, slaps the water at the edge
of this slate-flat slough, drives
his whole body under the shadow of sedges.

Head now erect, the swan,
just as the sun climbs free,
breaks into rumpled calls for directions to
the soul of the day, the way north, white
sky streaming behind his wings, opening . . .

More fully open than I will ever will
myself to open, more filled with spirit
than a holy relic, more earthy than
a strutting hen squabbling over kernels.

Sky filling now with white wings
exploding in wild flight, the swan flows in
behind the others in their wavering V,
his neck an arrow pointing, perfectly pinioned
wings opening rhythmically,
pumping without haste or rest into the sun.

from An Archaeology of Home