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Upon a Letter from a Friend Which Included Mention of Swans

jack yeats swans of coole

TO B.Y.

Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

– Yeats

The span of years hasn’t helped the eyes
Adjust to beauty’s knot in troubled times,
Nor eased the heart into its frame. Surprise
Is taken wedge by ounce
With gin and limes
We raise to give to Providence its half a chance.

You wrote to say that beauty’s gauge these days
Has been a ratio of swans per wing
To children growing old. – Here lie the ways
That lead to winter, straight
From early spring
To bleeding grapes which fill the untapped tun of Fate….

You said that swans preferred the Danube now
To Rhone or Rhine: in lamentation’s flight
Or drifting flocks of Charon’s candid dhow,
Each freights the stony ken
Of final night
In multiples of starry Cygnus – cob and pen.

How strange to think upon your mated swans
As each a year of moments gliding past us:
Their slender necks submit to clear-eyed Fons
As our own eyes blear with
Tears of Bacchus,
Who keeps us blind to Leda’s fortune – beauty’s myth.