He was a swan. A white swan in a shallow, grey pond beneath the overpass. He did swan
things—he moved in lines, he huddled with his companions, he floated about with no apparent
task. He was entirely like all the other swans except that he had no head. At the end of his neck
where a head would be, the white stump was perfectly rounded like a new kind of appendage,
all its feathers combed in the right direction, its mobility intact. It was much like a raw hotdog in
its shape and flexibility, its wobbly gesticulating, its off-putting nature. We didn't know how he
ate, you know, having no face. We imagined a small slit-like vertical mouth hidden behind his
thick bed of feathers, or maybe a filter-feeding anus. We made finger puppets of his likeness.
Scientists studied him, passersby googled him, parents threatened their children like he was a
demonic manifestation of consequence. I still often dream of our swan, his tears streaming
from an indiscernible source, his disembodied howl honking "You're not saying things right!
You're using the wrong words." Other nights the dreams are pleasant—my swan standing in the
post office, my swan sitting in the kitchen. I often close my eyes and conjure him, sing him to
sleep, picture him slowly collapsing like a deflating bounce-house. This is how I repair things. He
prefers Joni Mitchell's Blue. He likes AM radio. He lays his stump in my hand and it is softer than
I expect every time. Tonight it inverts and disappears into his body. The base of his neck now a
deep cavity into which I reach to warm my hands. We think about digestion, and absent fathers,
and the darkness behind closed closet doors, and we fall asleep as we do every night.