Leda Feels Empathy for Her Swan

Leda Feels Empathy for Her Swan
Alison Rumfitt

You told me how, when you were twelve, you looked up porn,
and how you sat and watched it all wide blue eyes and
curious little furrowed brow, letting your brain
filter through what you saw: two girls,
close, entwined, screaming meaningless words and veins and
acres of spit. Never seen so much fluid. That’s what you said.

You said it was always girls.

You are a swan. They say you can break my arm with your wing
you have tiny teeth inside your beak and are
protecting by the queen. When they kill you they stuff you
full of things, layers of meat, bodies inside bodies.
Symbolic things.
You have a neck that when leant against another swan’s neck
in a certain way creates a love heart, and because you mate for life
people think this means you believe in romance.
But you don’t. You believe in porn.
You believe in fluids.

We are both women but sometimes I think part of you was something
else, you told me how you envied me for my penis,
(I may hate it myself but it’s kept from you:
you can’t have this, not this one thing)
or how you used to role-play as one, calling it role-reversal,
though what those roles were was never defined,
How can you reverse unclear lines?
especially when neither of us could fully commit
to such an idea, such an act. So what were you,
man, woman or swan? They say Zeus has been a swan before.
Perhaps that was this.

They say he seduced her, or that’s code for rape.
They say it was erotic, but that’s code for fluids, that’s code for sweat
and for spit, so much spit, bird’s cannot produce it and yet
here you go salivating across my world, chasing me down,
I wore a white dress on the inside of my body,
a school uniform on the outside.
That’s the crux. You can’t deny a God something, they’ll strike you apart
but all these myths show us that giving them it leaves you scarred,
see Medusa, how she was raped and then
cursed into a serpent, the female phallic symbol, as Freud says,
the swan is also phallic, but the white hints at innocence
and the orange beak at, danger? Fire? It’s unclear.

You land;
“Bend over dear. I’ll break your heart with my wing.”

There is symbolism in this hurt somewhere if I can only
unfold the layers of scarring, find the throbbing wound
beneath it all. I think you have one too.
They found a dead swan down on the beach the other day,
was that too close to the truth? You are an animal maybe I could
only expect animal acts,
Or you are a god in which case
you are omnipotent, meaning I was helpless.

(You cannot have simply been human,
that would mean I am from the same place as you.)

Porn, erotic art, none of it caused this violence,
so the blame is on the you, squarely,
But still we return to this image of the swan
late at night, twelve years old, transfixed,
like a reflection of the sun in a lake
an act takes place on the screen and is then
mirrored in her eyes and through her mind and down
to Leda on the beach,
white dress, fearful, bloody knees. Great wings bear down upon her.


Alison is a transgender writer who studies at the University of Sussex. Her loves include folklore and mythology, gothic romance, grey cats, forests of all sizes and The Mountain Goats. Work by her has previously been published in Persephone’s Daughters, TAME zine, Cahoodaloodaling and featured in Nothing Without a Company’s play [Trans]Formations. You can find her at mrsdewinter.tumblr.com and @ironicgothic on Twitter.