The black swans of Gorky Park seem still:
no ripples ring them.
Their feathers swallow sunlight,
letting fall no drop of green or blue reflection.
Their backs, piled high with folded wings,
are dark sails trimmed to billow:
were there motive, they would move.

Children sit nearby transfixed
or lie, chest to lawn and chin to palm,
vigilant for motion.
From the children’s narrow vantage the water is a mirror,
buoying swans on inverted clouds, upended trees
and compatriots hanging headlong from the other shore.

Parents watch, but from their standing vantage
they perceive the water’s depth:
to them the mystery of webbed feet
is only half obscured.

All are silent yet intent:
young ones prostrate with expectation;
old ones waiting, waiting;
and the black swans of Gorky Park floating,
their long, high necks curving into midnight question marks.

© Douglas Elves

This poem won the Edmonton Journal Literary Contest, Short Poem Category, of 1991