One Perfect White Swan

A. Kendra Greene

The dirt path ended, an inch or two
from the dumpster’s lip. Just like that.
No tapering, no trailing off; just the
firm flat of the path now suddenly a
chasm, a pit. And that pit half-full of
feces, broken brooms, hypodermic
needles splayed at all angles, and all
the peels and rinds and bone and scrap
left over from feeding an ark. Every-
thing mixed with everything, urine-
soaked newspapers and limp latex
gloves. There was also, as I looked
down, one perfect white swan. Dead,
sure, but perfect. No sign of injury.
No scent of decay. There was just the
ivory mass of its body, the sinew loop
of its neck. Swans are big, so big the
crush of their beating wings can kill a
man, and death does not diminish them.

You can’t throw away a swan, I thought.

But, of course, you can.

Letterpress printed in hand-set Bembo type on dampened Johannot by Greene Ink Press, with thanks to Jill Kambs, 2011.

A. Kendra Greene is a Jacob K. Javits Fellow at the University of Iowa. She has vaccinated wild boars in Chile and modeled dresses twisted from balloons and is currently looking for reasons to love Dallas, Texas. Even as we speak, she is writing a memoir about museums. A writer and book artist, her work is published in Hand Papermaking and Field Working: Reading and Writing Research, and held in special collections including Yale University and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. More at