I tell Henrietta about the swans

Tina Barry

When the need to render a beak lived inside me, I’d swing one arm around a subway pole, press the lead point of the pencil into the notebook I carried. A dark dot launched the curve of hard bill. Between its eyes, the black knob, gateway to the swoosh of neck. Stashes of swan studies filled the drawer of my bedside table. I’d wake to the sky slouching off its cape, and label their parts, a new language I couldn’t stop writing: lore, nares. Covert: its ledge of wings; the serrated lamella surrounding its tongue. I’d peek at torn pieces stuffed into folders, at jobs I loathed, darken a wing, shadow the water. Once I had perfected the dusty diamond of its foot, the center digit so real I could feel its scalloped ridges with my finger, I stood in the subway, poised to draw, but the swans never returned.

Tina Barry is the author of Beautiful Raft and Mall Flower. Her writing appeared in The Maryland Literary Review, A-Minor, The Best Small Fictions 2020 (spotlighted story) and 2016, Trampset, Flash-Frontier, South Florida Poetry Journal, Rattle, Verse Daily, ONE ART: a journal of poetry, and elsewhere. Tina teaches at The Poetry Barn and Writers.com.