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The Swan at Edgewater Park

This division must end.
Again I'm forced to amputate
the chicken's limb; slit the joint,
clip the heart, snip wing from back,

strip fat from flesh, separate
everything from itself. I'm used,
thrown down by unknown hands,
by cowards who can't bear to do

the constant severing. Open and close!
Open and close. I work and never tell.
Though mostly made of mouth, I have no voice,
no legs. My arms are bent, immobile

pinions gripped by strangers. I fear
the grudge things must hold.
I slice rose from bush, skin from muscle,
head from carrot, root from lettuce,

tail from fish. I break the bone.
What if they join against me,
uncouple me, throw away one-half,
or hide my slashed eye? Or worse,

what if I never die? What I fear
most is being caught, then rusted rigid,
punished like a prehistoric
bird, fossilized, and changed

into a winged lizard, trapped while clawing
air, stuck in stone with open beak.

—Christianne Balk

from Bindweed, 1985
Macmillan Press

Copyright 2001 by Christianne Balk.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of Macmillan Press from Bindweed. Copyright 1985 by Christianne Balk. For further permissions information, contact Christianne Balk, 6845 47th Avenue, N.E., Seattle, Washington 98115.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Christianne Balk (1953- ) is the author of two poetry collections, including Desiring Flight (Purdue University Press, 1995). Honors include the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets, Verna Emery Poetry Prize from Purdue University, and grants from the Ingram Merrill Foundation and the Seattle Arts Council.

Learn more about Christianne Balk.