When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs.
When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.
A swan reflects upon the question
mark his body forms in the deep
blue beneath him, like the photograph
Ansel Adams said he would replace
with silence. Lohengrin rides a swan
to save his mistress and protect
the grail. Wagner thought of Ludwig
as the Swan King ruling Neuschwanstein,
the New Swan Stone Castle, where Nazis
secluded stolen art during the war.
If the boat sinks, hold your nose
and run like hell for the other side,
my father’s frustrated sergeant snarked
at the private, who failed the army’s
swimming lessons before he sailed toward
D-Day. Dad never wore a life
jacket on our fishing trips; the Polaroid
photographs of our catches
are curled now and yellowed, like memories
refusing to formulate. You could smell
the bodies for miles, Dad said of his corps’
march toward Dachau. During the early
period of our entry, a number of company
men cried, while others raged,
Lt. Col. Felix Sparks reported. Thirty thousand
prisoners, who were still alive, began
to shout in unison. Several bodies were tossed
and torn apart by hundreds of hands.
Would you rather be reborn as a whale,
a panther, or a swan? my father
used to ask. Socrates saw souls
floating in the ether, waiting
to be reborn into a new body.
Shortly before he swallowed
hemlock, Socrates said,
Grant me the prophecy of a swan.