Three days after the boating accident on the lake
those who promenaded through the park
(chaperones a few steps behind)
somberly reflected. They murmured quietly,
voices vibrating with guilt, what luck
it was to have stayed home or been abroad
that tragic day. A cry rang out and they all
noticed something strange happening
among the bevy of trumpeter swans.
The birds swam rapidly,
breaking their wedge formation —
forgetting their usually graceful glide —
to the eastern shore where among the tubers and lily pads
floated the corpse of a woman. Her bright calico
now dulled with the industrial run off
of the murky waters of progress
only a few patches of brilliant green
maybe from the cloth, maybe from algae
caught the eyes of the horrified perambulators
and the belligerent swans.
The swans swarmed: dancing
a migratory dance of death as they attacked
the body. They ripped away wet fabric and clammy skin
with their serrated beaks. Three swan marriages
ended in the tumult. The women, the men,
the chaperones fled in terror,
heading home to the genteel safety of cups of tea
and pianos and lace work. Shuddering.
Desperate to forget. But one woman
picked up her sketchbook and, though her hand shook,
she traced the scene from memory.
One of the lesser known Lake Poets took up his pen
and gave the tragic victim a new life
in the guise of a zombie swan placidly floating
on the pond until overtaken by the craving
for bone and blood and flesh.
Ray Ball is a writer and history professor based in Anchorage, Alaska. She is the author of a number of history books and articles. Her poems have found homes at journals including Alaska Women Speak, Eunoia Review, and Now Then Manchester. She tweets about writing, early modern people and hobgoblins, running, and her beagle @ProfessorBall