I know, I know. The swans,
again. How lovely—
at a distance.
and unsullied; the eternal
bride and groom of the lake,
that iconic neck, existing
purely for beauty’s sake—
until you take your picnic
to water’s edge, set out your
humble meal: spreadable
cheese, a sleeve of saltines,
and bar of chocolate wrapped
in foil silvery as a minnow.
your back as I did
when too late I saw two swans
rise up on the tips of webbed
toes, necks rigid as spikes.
From exquisite cygnet to reptile
with waxen wings, Darwin’s theory
of transmutation became
vehemently clear, as if I’d
been thrust upon the visceral pages
of a natural history book.
In that charging
duo, I saw nothing sweet or luminous; not
those swans, with their raptor’s stance
and prehistoric grimace.
This, my dear crab, is how it is:
You were born to a meager constellation,
a creature without a head, pincers instead of wings.
You are the dark sign of the zodiac, the final
and yet least interesting of Hercules’ labors.
You are constantly hiding, and therefore
mysterious, and the tides are always lapping
at the shell you keep armored against the
moon swept waves, the singing coral, pink
as a baby’s finger; and there is, in you,
a tendency to give it all away, your heart
in violin concertos, although crabs don’t sing
or dance, nor are they gifted with the crocodile’s
smile. The name you were given is synonymous
with grave ills and calamity, and you are not
immune to breakage. You drink the salt
of the oceans’ sweat, and never greet things
head on but claw a ragged path on your lateral
journey, envious of the gods, those elegant
spinners of love and fate, while you balance
on unsteady stilts at water’s edge.