Gemma Bristow, writer


A swan detached itself
from a confusion of swans by the water
and glided off with purpose,
its white neck held
imperial and isolate.

I remembered swan served at a banquet,
arranged on a platter and decked
with its own gilded feathers.
I feared to take it, as if
there was no meat inside, nothing but gold,
and I could die by eating it,
like a slave in the Orient
made to swallow molten metal.

Molten gold, for a fallen vizier —
since we grant a costly death
when culling something valuable,
like this ivory bird
marked for the highest table.