To a Cygnet

— Renée M. Schell

A grandfather now,
I glide forward on black slippered feet.
Others dip their necks to me as I paddle
the length of the lake.

The hatchling season showered my head with petals,
then longer days brought warmth and lily pads.
Now rain dimples the water’s surface
like the skin of a plucked bird.
I will last one winter more,
or less if the season wills it.

My story shimmers as legend,
a song of beauty and late bloomers.
But the stronger current runs deep,
well below the glassy surface:

I am no more beautiful than a fallen crow,
a grain of corn
or water itself.
My feathers are no whiter than others’.
I did nothing to attain this appearance,
the sweep of the neck, the noble head.

When I found by chance the others
with beaks large and protruding, feet gangling,
the others who also trumpet their call,
I saw myself anew.
No longer hesitant at water’s edge, I swam freely.
I saw myself as light and grace.

You look as I once did,
dirty gray feathers climb your ungainly neck
as you strut along the graveled path.

But you have known soft, sandy shores and
great hunks of dry bread tossed your way.
You are enfolded in the wings of the whiteness.

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