“Western Michigan University, 1989” by Pamela Garvey

Pamela Garvey


In only the thin fog of moonlight,
only the dull yellow bulbs lining the park’s path,
two students—unnamed, spared
from photographs—perched on coolers
and flung their cane poles into the pond, a perfect oval
with nowhere to go, little to offer:
just some overgrown goldfish and darters,
small trophies or jewels they held—
skin rubbing scales for a moment—then tossed back.
But something went wrong, and you know this happens.
And if they could unbury the moment,
what would they find? Would they tell us?
I’d like to think the last beer charmed them blind.
But what if they were living their truest moment
when they grabbed, or one grabbed, the female swan,
holding her down so the other could punch her,
kick her? They took turns bruising her
because that’s all they knew; they’d seen the pond in daylight
bruised with petals and swirling reflections of clouds
swallowing the swans into spreading shade,
and they loved the shade. Even more, they loved the night
for blurring distinctions, so when one man, one boy,
wrapped his arms around the swan’s neck, he felt her becoming
a part of himself, and he didn’t know it meant
the hunted becomes what it nourishes
but simply tore off her head and held it
the way a pet cat carries the mouse it kills
like a prize, a gift.

from Rattle #29, Summer 2008


Pamela Garvey: “Raised in the suburbs of New York, I suffered tremendous teen angst that I failed to craft into anything even close to poetry, though I called it poetry until my much wiser college professors clobbered me with the truth. The blows were softened by all the books they introduced to me. Each night I slept with the images of William Carlos Williams, Norman Dubie, Adrienne Rich, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Plumly … I’ve been chasing those images for years now.”

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