E.C. Messer

Swan Lake

The moon comes blue—
face of a wan centenarian.
    Poor prurient moon,
    like a midnight swan it rises tides.

The moon comes and then comes you,
     feathered along the edge
     of flightless fins, skin-thin and scaled.

Odile by the delta
melts into reeds, the sodden queen.
Odile by the smiling lake.
You think you were taken, had
     Odile your Leah,
     Odile your connubial mistake.

Odette, unwet, is better:
Odette the innocent,
Odette the squirm of a first lover.
     Frame and shadow hold her tighter
     when she pulls. When she struggles she tears up.

Gently, you pretend not to know her.
     Perhaps you do not.
     Perhaps you forgot.

There they are, the swans.
They are yours, the swans—
     your two white swans,
     your flock of impeccable, feckless white swans.

You’d Look Better Without Eyes
(The Story of Coppélia)

To make you break
they take the eyes out.

It’s uncanny, thought Freud,
how a woman can come alive
     just by blinking.

Moira Shearer with her sin-red hair
and surprised eyebrows
in a production of the Archers—

any ballerina stalling
when she runs down,
falling back into a doll;

any inelegant female creature
crawling toward the wings

     when you cut her strings.

Translate into English

1. The balls of his feet are in the palms of my hands.

2. She took the red umbrella by mistake.

3. The soles of his feet are in the heels of my hands.

4. It was dark because it had been raining.

5. The hands of my hands are in the feet of his feet.

6. She loves a red umbrella, she does.

7. The soul of my hand is in his feat.

8. She meant to take it. There was no mistake.

9. These hands of mine are in him.

E.C. Messer lives by the Pacific Ocean with her husband and four cats, one of whom has a bionic heart. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @ecmesser. She would like very much to know you.

Next poem

Previous poem