The Swan


Across the wide waters
   something comes
      floating–a slim
         and delicate

ship, filled
   with white flowers–
      and it moves
         on its miraculous muscles

as though time didn't exist
   as though bringing such gifts
      to the dry shore
         was a happiness

almost beyond bearing.
   And now it turns its dark eyes,
      it rearranges
         the clouds of its wings,

it trails
   an elaborate webbed foot,
      the color of charcoal.
         Soon it will be here.

Oh, what shall I do
   when that poppy-colored beak
      rests in my hand?
         Said Mrs. Blake of the poet:

I miss my husband's company–
   he is so often
      in paradise.
         Of course! the path to heaven

doesn't lie down in flat miles.
   It's in the imagination
      with which you perceive
         this world,

and the gestures
   with which you honor it.
      Oh, what will I do, what will I say, when those white wings
         touch the shore?


Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems, Volume 1, Beacon Press, 2005.