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Leda

                                    Joanna Pearson


In the most beautiful rape story
he comes as a swan.
Above her, wings beat hard,
spreading the scent of muck and lake.
Then there’s a parting squawk,
arc of his neck almost apologetic
as he takes off.

But in the worst—and this
will always be the case—
she is shivering and has
your little sister’s face,
an old pillow pressed
into her mouth: musty taste
of feathers, mildewed heat,
choking cough.

No longer do they break
with gravity—no lift,
no odd, consoling courtesy—
nor do they feign
the half-shyness of those
who metamorphose
for cloaked purposes
yet still take the shapes,
the dark prerogatives, of gods.


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