Rethinking Leda and the Swan

Author(s) : Jeanette Willert,
poetry, issue-three
		Did she put on his knowledge with his power
		Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?
			—W.B. Yeats, Leda and the Swan

I wonder,
how later,
thought of the great swan.

In all the art
of Zeus’
men painted the mortal woman
in a carnal rhapsody.


Having suffered a staggering blow,
flung backward by a surprising force,
the woman was trapped
beneath an insistent serpentine neck
and strong, clasping wings.
A cold, hard beak
pressed to her swooning lips;
the keel of his broad feathered breast
pounded hard upon her soft flesh.

In the engulfing rush
was she merely compliant,
or, as by opium,
as the huge fowl
pinned her supine,
snorting his love song
as a rhythmic flogging

crescendoed. . .

			he was gone. . .

			Just like that.

In the moments that followed,
was she saddened
at the god’s sudden flight,
his grail having been gained?

Might she have
wondered, “Why me?’
once the scratches and bruises
began to fade?

Would she,
in the coming months,
caress her ripening belly
where seed and egg had melded?

Or, maybe,
(a strong maybe)
would scoff at the possibility
that taking on
the brute’s knowledge
was worth any of it.

Jeanette Willert, former Associate Professor of English Education at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY and Director of the Western New York Writing Project, served as Vice-President of the Alabama State Poetry Society. She was honored as their 2018 Poet of the Year. Her chapbook Appalachia, Amour won the Morris Chapbook Award (2017), Her poems appeared recently in Goat’s Milk, WINK and Librett and, Crosswinds Poetry journals and the 2020 Anthology of Appalachian Writer (Vol. 12). Her first poetry book, it was never Eden, will be published later