13 Ways Of Looking At A Black Swan
Nandi Chinna (Edith Cowan University, Australia)
After Wallace Stevens
A great Southern continent must exist
in order to balance the land in the North.
Amongst white skinned people
all Swans are white.
In the morning a river is dragged into the ocean.
In the evening it escapes, sucking fish
and sea grasses back into its mouth.
A wedge of Black Swans
carve the white sky.
A Black Swan lies beyond
all expectations, a line of white feathers
conspicuous in flight; its long neck swoops
like a calligrapher’s practiced hand,
the meticulous letter S.
The water has retreated
leaving limestone cliffs
engraved with sea shells
and a river that insists
upon walking this way.
A small number of Black Swans
explain almost everything in our world.
Two male Black Swans may become partners,
build a nest together, raise cygnets.
If one Swan dies the other
will live out its life alone.
The return to Amsterdam took three months
with nothing remarkable to show,
except a box containing shells, fruits and plants,
discs of scented wood found on Rottnest Island
and three Black Swans
which died one by one, shortly after arrival.
At this point appearances wore a threatening aspect
for the natives seemed very much enraged.
We gave them various articles of dress,
a corporals jacket, and three black swans.
( Stirling’s Journal, March 11, 1827)
A mound of reeds and grasses
pegged in the shallow water,
whistling and crooning
two Black Swans prepare for winter.
A Black Swan makes what you don’t know
far more important than what you do know.
. . . in a few minutes a blazing fire
with roasting swans before it,
shed cheerfulness on our resting place.
( Stirling’s Journal March 10th 1827)
After the men had sung for the increase
their relatives and friends arrived.
With plenty of eggs and meat.
they began to feast on the kuljak.
Black Swans being unpredictable,
may appear on ornamental lakes,
a musical utterance of bugle and trumpet
in red and black uniform.
Buried beneath Perth railway station
lies the ghost of a swamp
and the bones of many
Nandi’s poetry has been widely published in journals and anthologies in Australia and the UK. Her poetry has also been broadcast on Radio National as part of the Proper Shoes project, while her short stories ‘Ralph’ and ‘Ink Stained Fingers’ were performed in London as part of the web based installation 1001 Nights, by performance artist Barbara Campbell.
She co-ordinates VOICEBOX a monthly poetry and performance event at La Tropicana Cafe in Fremantle, Western Australia. Her first collection of poetry Our Only Guide Is Our Homesickness was published in the Five Islands Press New Poets publishing program in 2007. She is currently working on her PhD.