Girl with Child on a Swan's Wing

Angela Carr (Dublin, Ireland)

Liz Berry: Rich, lyrical and full of music. An enchanting poem.



Girl with Child on a Swan's Wing

Grave 8, discovered at Vedbaek, Denmark (1975)


A girl when my father gave me to him

my dowry, the tawny-sheened hide of a buck,

twenty bright strings of the teeth of a doe


I came, the tremble of a small wild thing,

I came, a creature caught, a hunger,

a heart, its string the beat of the forest;


they braided shells in my hair, anointed me,

said my sons would be warriors, blood of kings:

And my daughters, I thought, what of them?


He took me and my belly grew a boy,

though boy he never was, my nearly child,

I hunted him across three starless nights, and fell.


Women washed our hides, combed my pelt,

daubed me blue my wedding fine, a pillow wept

as they bore us out beyond the grasswood huts,


the hummocks of the elder dead, to the shade

of the trees, laid out where the black earth bared,

and the sun, a bone knife, speared the charging sea;


my breathless boy flint blade at his belly

cupped in the downy scoop of a swan's wing:

sky-rider, cloud-streaked, rain-wise, wind-breathed;


red ochre, blown from a bowl, floated blood-bright

on feather-white, a cloud where the birth-tide flowed;

put us to ground in the howl of the wolf 's moon,


in the whispered hush of the long winter snow,

when the bone sun bowled across the forest,

came to rest in the green-rippled dark.









 poem © Angela Carr