Myth, or Luck as a Swan Boat – Gavin Yuan Gao

Fear fear, shriek the unseen cicadas in a borrowed
         language all summer long. It gets into a pattern:

the cut diamond of their chorus shredding the air
         into thin ribbons of heat. The abandoned fountain

dry as the loins of any stone cherub. I go where
         chance takes me, or is it luck—that sun-bleached

swan boat steered by nothing but the lake’s caprice
         through the knot of shadows cast by a willow grove.

That shadow play of mind : foliage : mind : foliage 
          until the water turns murky as unanswered prayers—

chance, a codeword for surrender; prayers, a prelude
          to trust. I lie down beside the rock worn to myth

by the lake’s ancient murmurs. The boat I came in
          has turned to a swan, the swan now saunters toward me

as a god. Fear ebbs from me in ripples tainted by the moon
          as I seek that rare kind of tenderness that lies between rescue

and ruin, guiding the god’s feathered touch over the ivory
          magnolia of my belly, steering his calloused hands over

mine, saying, here are the oars. Here is the impossible rowing.
Gavin Yuan Gao

Gavin Yuan Gao is a Brisbane-based poet and translator. His recent writings can be found in Waxwing, The Offing, Rabbit Poetry Journal, Voice & Verse Poetry, and elsewhere. He won the 2020 Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize and is an incoming poetry candidate at Cornell University’s MFA program.

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