Depletion haunted him: things running down,
As if there were no spare parts in the world
And other hands and hearts; the mottled text
Of what he read: the wear and tear on the eyeball.
Like going back to Druid Hill to see the swans
And finding them in a nearly dried up pond —
Grey, scrawny, on rocks crouching, looking destitute
And very small; he had expected more of swans.
Noblesse oblige: the distant keeping of archaic grace,
Not the anarchic bleak regard of a cold day
In March among newsprint: fiat of final indigence.
Even the reservoir looked shrunken stiff and dry
And nearly was; the nonsense of sensing things reduced
By time to dwarfings of imponderable grotesques
Contracting, shrinking towards a queer emptiness.
The great black swan with fiery eyes he used to watch
By the hour moving indifferent, solitary on the water,
Was gone; and with him the expansive image of his world.
What if the trees should burgeon with pink buds
And boys and girls find paradise among the boughs.
Too many things had dwindled into nothingness
For him to comprehend. Small wonder he crept home
That night and wept silently for what was vanishing
Of which he felt so vital and integral a part.
Richard O’Connell lives in Hillsboro Beach, Florida. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, National Review, and Light, among many others. His most recent collections are American Obits, Fractals, and Dawn Crossing.
First published in Measure, Volume 2 (2007)