Mute Swan


Smooth curve in the neck, wings arched,
like the ‘S’ I drew on the blue line at school
to prove I could write on the line like he, who
swims to perfection.
But like me, speechless in class, his voice sticks in his throat
Is it fear, or is it some tethered desire
makes him hiss and choke?

He squints down his face past his features nose
to a red blade-bill, weapon or wand
which kills or bewitches or seals a bond
or gather the weeds to feed his pair.
He struggles to lift – that heavy despair
hinders ascent – yet across the sky
headlong with his mates he flies
dazzling in a squadron of trouble
each limb and wing, muscle and whim
in missile formation fierce in attack.

Yet on land such harmonious form
the speechless charm, no hint of a struggle
all fashioned in feathers so light, as white
as the clouds, his voluptuous dance,
his ease as he glides over water so blue
like my pen on the page that one day at school.


The Mute Swan can be recognised by the large bump at the top of the beak. Source: All About Birds


Swan Patrol. Source: BBC

Despite its name, the mute swan is not totally mute: he makes various explosive and hissing noises.  In spring the black knob of the male on the bill is greatly enlarged, and his bill gets redder.  The mute swan is a sociable bird, but not in the breeding season; it can readily assume an aggressive attitude.  They were imported from Europe to the US during the 1800s for their beauty, and from then on, escaping into the wild, they reproduced. They normally mate – mostly for life – at the age of three or four years old and both sexes incubate the eggs which are laid April-May and hatch after 35 – 40 days.