Swan, As the Light Was Changing

Fall, when everything was turning
dark. & the fog moved in
like a wolf, circling the park,

& the holiday children parading
in the bodies of witches & bears.
All skins gleamed orange

as the sun made tricks out of us,
brilliant as new coins or foxes
until the sun left, all the way,

& the only light, then, was
the white of the swan,
animal in the park pond. So long—

I held it in my eye the way a person
sometimes carries a flash,
again & again; like light, that swan shape burned

into the screen of my eyes. & when I stood
to leave it, the white peony of its body,
for life, had marked my visions. Now everything

I see, even today, even this “trace”: a swan.

by Aracelis Girmay

‘Swan, As the Light Was Changing’ is copyright © Aracelis Girmay, 2011. It is reprinted by permission of BOA Editions from Aracelis Girmay’s latest book of poems Kingdom Animalia (BOA, 2011).

Aracelis Girmay was born and raised in Southern California, with roots in Puerto Rico, Eritrea, and African America. She is also the author of the collage-based picture book changing, changing, and the poetry collection Teeth, for which she was awarded a GCLA New Writers Award. Girmay has taught youth writing workshops in schools and community centers for the past ten years. She is assistant professor of poetry writing at Hampshire College, and also teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Drew University in New Jersey. Kingdom Animalia won the 2011 Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, and was recently shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry. You can read another poem from the book at BOA’s site here, and watch Aracelis Girmay read from her work here.

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