"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."  --William Shakespeare

Entries in swans (2)


Moment of Ecstasy

iPhone photo by Kaaren Kitchell



I left Shakespeare and Company with two books I’d ordered, Louis Zukovsky’s epic poem, “A,” and Robert Ward’s novel about the Sixties, “Shedding Skin.”

Should I go back to my studio now to write, or to a café? Something tugged on me in the direction of the latter.

I took the most beautiful route, along the south side of Notre Dame. The gargoyles glared down; I’ve heard they need repairing. The proportions of the trees against river and sky was… perfect.

In the park named for a pope, I looked up to see a sky smoky with clouds and the waxing gibbous moon, which seemed to be directly above our apartment to the south.

On the Pont St.-Louis, I remembered a stanza of a poem I’d written about my mother’s visit to Paris:

Here, the Pont Saint-Louis where

police tortured a gypsy for a crime,

so her mother cursed the bridge—

it crumbled seven times.

And then I spotted swans. Six swans, with seventeen ducks nearby. I hadn’t seen swans on the Seine in a while.

All I wanted at the café was a hot chocolate. Maybe the waitress disapproved—not much of an order—since she promptly forgot it. I reminded her, sipped and read and wrote, and left the café at 9:30 back across the Pont St.-Louis.

There in the middle of the bridge was a man singing, in front of him a telescope with a sign, “Regardez Les Cratères de la Lune.” 

How much? I asked.

Whatever you want to donate, he said.

He aimed the telescope; I leaned down. The image was so close I felt as if I could leap onto the moon. The craters on the right side were more pronounced and numerous than on the left.

That’s because the line between day and night is strongest on the right side, he said.

Of course! The moon has her days and nights, just as we do, depending on where the sun is shining his light on her.

Two French men came dashing up and brushed cheeks with the man offering the moon.

They introduced themselves. Nicolas and Charlie, and the moon man was Jean-Raphael.

Voyez-vous une femme chantant à pleine voix, ou un lapin dans la lune? I asked.

Un lapin! they said.

Naturally, rabbits being one of Aphrodite’s creatures, like Paris herself and the French. 

You can see Saturn and her rings, too, said Jean-Raphael.

I peered into the telescope. Nothing. Again. Nothing. And then, there it was, tiny, ringed, a bright dot just to the right of the moon.

I looked up and had that sense of standing in eternity: three men and I paying homage to the Moon and Saturn from the Pont St.-Louis with the Seine and swans below on one of the last warm nights of summer in Paris: a moment of ecstasy!




A Room for Dreaming

The state we are in

as we leave agent and owner,

the lease in our hands,


the room a dream come true,

the room where a deeper dream

will unfold.


A three-year lease. He doesn’t want to sell.

His son might use it for college,

his three-year-old son.


Galettes at Breizh, a new find—

might be the best in town, though any would be

in the state we’re in, the world perfect and full.



From one end of rue Vieille du Temple

to the Seine, dark waters, shivering,

a ghost memory, I dive in


to another river from my houseboat

on the Thames, swim to a swan

who hisses and strikes like a snake


my hand, protecting her cygnets.

We head east on the Quai d’Orléans.

There! Look! Right above Notre Dame,



Venus and Jupiter shine, so close

they seem to be signaling, so bright

they seem to be speaking.



And there! Two swans on the bank

of the Seine, one with head tucked into wing,

the other grooming his feathers.


I remember Zeus disguised as swan

ravishing Leda, her hyacinth-colored eggs bearing

Castor and Clytaemnestra, Helen and Polydeuces;


remember the swan poems we wrote the year

we met, calling out to each other,

“Cob!” “Pen!”


We look back from the Pont de la Tournelle

at Our Lady’s eastern face, the skull

that shows in the dark.


The sweep of light across the heavens

from the tip of the golden tower, Jupiter and Venus

like swans curved in embrace.


And it seems to us that all that matters

is that we turn again

and again to love.