Swans and the River

2013 String Poet Prize 2nd Place
The males are all feathered out
like the Merry-Go-Round swans at Playland
that carried us in circles in the center of their hollow
cupped wings. Such innocence then, going round
and round, loved ones waving at us, as though
we were going on some long, uncharted journey —

He held my hand tightly, my four-year-old fingers
an easy grab for his sixteen-year-old hand.
The Merry-Go-Round slowed and my brother
paid the fare and placed me in the hollow back
of the giant white swan. The music began and I rode
into the circular river, each round making it harder
for me to find my brother, faces in the crowd a blur,
as I rode faster and faster into the carousel’s tide.

I waited for the ride to be over. The music slowed,
horses with faces painted in terror trotting up and down
next to me came to a walk and then stopped. No one
came to take my hand, to walk me out of the swan’s belly.

The midway was all shiny lights, grotesque. The rubber man
was winding his leg around his neck; the snake lady
kissed the head of a yellow python wrapped around
her torso. Screams from the Ferris wheel riders, pistol shots,
the calliope churned out its frantic, mechanical tunes.
The eyes of the horse looked pleadfully at me as it began
to step into the shallows of its movement towards the river
with its nightmares, blurred faces that never return.