Alice Friman

Swan Song
August 21, 2019 Friman Alice

Swan Song




I admit. In the beginning
I set out to pry him open,
find what was cramped inside,
map out the leery, the shackled,
the afraid. To discover at the end
the mother lode of silver
I was sure was there.


We were standing by a lake
and there were swans.

Sun shards sequined
the water, the glittering
cut-glass water
where willows bent
to admire their leaves,
and swans drifted like pillows
paddling the liquid surface
of a crystal ball.


We were standing by a lake
and there were swans.

But when I opened him up
what I found was the steady
drip of need, filling a well
so deep I was compelled
to jump in feet first as I’d been
trained to do. Looking back, I still
see that lake touched by fingers of fire,
that lake floating its feathered
prophecies—pillows to sleep on—
as if it knew how weary I’d be
treading water for twenty years,
holding him up.

Alice Friman’s eighth collection of poems, On the Overnight Train, is a New & Selected due out from LSU Press in February. Her last books, also from LSU, are Blood Weather, The View from Saturn, and Vinculum which won the Georgia author of the year award in poetry. A recipient of two Pushcart Prizes and included in Best American Poetry, she’s won many prizes and has been been published in Poetry, Ploughshares, Plume, Georgia Review, Gettysburg Review, Crazyhorse, Poetry East, Massachusetts Review, and many others. Her website is