Mute swans on the Cam
Pick a flower on Earth and you move the
farthest star. Paul Dirac
February’s threadbare light
pools around the whiteness of swans,
while we dabble in shadows beneath the bridge.
Students perch on the tills of punts,
drop quant poles through reflections, as we did
before the silence of migration.
A cob and pen surge towards us
on a river-span of wings, a single wave of energy
intent on propulsion upstream.
Black-masked, eyes on their landing place,
orange bills honed on target,
they power through the old stone arch
then skid to a halt, suddenly gawky as ducklings,
webbed feet all a-kilter, yet they settle swiftly
on the water’s surface.
We preen our feathers, ruffled by the birds’ momentum.
How certain our own course seemed,
until, fully fledged, we flew in different directions.
Snowdrops climb the riverbank,
heads dipped like swans’; when you place one
on my palm, your hand nests in mine,
the soft warm weight of it a memory
of an afternoon like this, when a waning moon
completed the slate-grey sky’s equation.