Swan Songs for Lancelot and Elaine: Swan Sonnet #3


Lancelot and Elaine cleaning their feathers from mud and rain with a female Mallard sitting about five feet away on the shore of Lake LaVerne on Sept. 3.

Nancy Hayes

Editor’s Note: The introduction to the Swan Sonnets can be found here, the first Swan Sonnet here, and the second Swan Sonnet here.

Our pinioned Mute Swans huddle on the ice,

abandoned in the cold like curling stones,

heads tucked within clasped wings, make selves concise

to keep from freezing tightly folded bones.

The coldest winter — twenty-five below —

do they complain, do they just sleep away

the frozen time? Since January, snow

on snow on snow — who’d thought that they could stay?

A patch of water, feeder trough with grain,

a dream of algae. Hear beneath their breaths

a stoic song, its muffled, brave refrain.

Keep on, keep on, my fellow swan, they strain.

they summon will to thrive from mythic depths.

Show me how I my courage might sustain!