Swans are always resting in Bray Harbour
as if they’ve settled all those messages
wayward deities would send them on.
They’re weary of symbolic references

that poets make, don’t even want to swim
in faithful couples to support the claim
monogamy is right for birds and women.
This bunch of ragged swans are lame

ducks compared with Yeats’s nine and fifty
wild ones counted on a Coole Park lake.
They’re not ‘wheeling in great broken wings,’
they’ve fallen from grace, for God’s sake,

lack ambition, seem to have given up,
beaks pecking wings, necks curved down
not ‘mysterious, beautiful,’ in no way living up
to their image. They make you wonder

with their off-white feathers, washed-out wings
how gods and artists ever chose this species
that lacks a skylark’s flight, a thrush’s song
colours of robins, blue tits or goldfinches.

I shift my seat on rocks above the harbour
stretch veined legs, brush sea-dust from trousers
call to the birds in praise of ruffling feathers
unstringing nets of legend, pulling together.