[one of my favorite poems of all time]
Black on flat water past jonquil lawns
Riding, the black swan draws
A private chaos warbling in its wake,
Assuming, like a fourth dimension, splendor
That calls the child with white ideas of swans
Nearer to that green lake
Where every paradox means wonder.
Although the black neck arches not unlike
A question mark on the lake,
The swan outlaws all easy questioning:
A thing in its self, equivocal, foreknown,
Like pain, or women singing as we wake;
And the swan song it sings
Is the huge silence of the swan.
Illusion: the black swan knows how to break
Through expectation, beak
Aimed now at its own breast, now at its image,
And move across our lives, if the lake is life,
And by the gentlest turning of its neck
Transform, in time, time’s damage;
To less than a black plume, time’s grief.
Enchanter: the black swan has learned to enter
Sorrow’s lost secret center
Where, like a May fete, separate tragedies
Are wound in ribbons round the pole to share
A hollowness, a marrow of pure winter
That does not change but is
Always brilliant ice and air.
Always the black swan moves on the lake. Always
The moment comes to gaze
As the tall emblem pivots and rides out
To the opposite side, always. The blond child on
The bank, hands full of difficult marvels, stays
Now in bliss, now in doubt.
His lips move: I love the black swan.
— James Merrill