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The Swan as Metaphor for Love

by Amelia Gray

edited by Lisa Locascio

The Swan as Metaphor for Love is included in Amelia Gray's collection Gutshot, which is now available from FSG. Purchase it from Powell's

A swan's foot, like a duck's, is a webbed claw. In traversing swan shit and mud, the claws gunk up and reek. Nobody in the history of the world, save another swan, has licked a swan foot while that foot was still attached to the swan. The feet resemble rabid bats in their sickly color and texture.

Moving north on the swan's undercarriage, one will find an eroded civilization of swan shit and pond scum. This is a banal phrase, "pond scum," one that is easily ignored, but look closer, take a more personal approach. Swans eat grasses, sedges and pond weed, each teeming with murk. The birds will also eat insects, snails and a fresh shrimp if they're near one.

(Pond scum is more of the same: swan shit, fish shit, frog shit, half a can of beer poured by some fuck teenager, plastic, photosynthetic residue, algae, permanent bubble, hexagon patch freed from its soccer ball, anthropod corpse. All attached to the swan in its idiot float in its stagnant little inland sea.)

Swans eat tadpoles. A swan will slurp up entire schools of larval amphibians, process them and shit them out, and sometimes then it will sit in the shit or walk through it, and here we are. Anyone who claims that a swan is a majestic and noble creature has never seen a swan up close or smelled its bacterial purge.

Swans will attack you if you are nearing their young or their nest, if you are trying to have a conversation with their mate. They have jagged points on their beak which resemble teeth but more closely resemble a plumber's saw, which plumbers call a Tiny Tim. If you try to take a swan's picture he will strike you with his beak. Too much attention enrages a swan. The swan has a long neck and will strike at you. The swan will bite you and tear your flesh.

Swans mate for life, which is maybe 10 or 15 years. Someone found a swan once that was 24 years old and probably it was mating for life, which everyone made a big deal out of even though the swan was not even old enough to rent a car. The swan wasn't old enough to silently hyperventilate in bed. The swan didn't have a bed. The swan was too stupid to have a bed and if it did it would fill the bed with swan shit. That's all for today about swans.