1. I learned how to swim
On a killing night. The swallow
Taught me how to swallow
And I wanted it,
I wanted it,
(Did I want it, or want him?)
I wanted to know
What sex was like with someone
Once I knew what sex was.
2. He taught me how to swim,
Skinny-dipping in the pond
Beyond the Forest of Amaranth,
And the Shrine of the Last Divine,
Which someone erected for us,
When the world almost died,
(And he almost died,
3. What is a swan that can’t swim?
(I don’t know him, the swallow said.)
The swallow never lied,
Even when I wish he did,
Even when I wanted—
I wanted him to say he’d—
Learn my name.
And say it without shame
And then and only then,
Claim that he wanted me,
(When what I didn’t know then
Was that I wanted him to say
He knew my tongue.)
And not in the way he already did.
4. “Swallow,” I said, “you’ve had a look
In your eye, so wide-open
A fly could fly in it.”
“Shut up, I’m busy.”
“You’re the one that invited me.”
“Don’t you know when a lady
Is busy thinking of some real shit?”
“Of course you don’t,” the swallow muttered.
I draped myself over his lap, my stomach over
His knees, Say please if you want to kneel for me,
(No, wrong, that wasn’t him, was that him?
It wasn’t him it wasn’t him it wasn’t him.)
The swallow tossed his head back,
And when he spoke—
“I’m in love.”
—I choked and spat.
5. Some prey animals freeze
When they face violence.
And others, yet others know better
Than to ask the gods for forgiveness.
I knew better than to ask.
6. I don’t want to do this anymore.
You don’t, Hanashiro? Now, now,
You know how special a little boy you are,
Especially to me, the cleverest and most cunning,
Most brilliant white and stunning,
Do you know what that means?
I said nothing.
That means you are also so, so clever,
So cunning, so brilliant and pure and stunning,
That you’ve caught my attention.
An honor, isn’t it?
7. Are you in love with me? I wanted to ask.
I wanted so badly to ask.
I didn’t need to.
“Her name’s Shirohana, and
She reminds me a little bit
Of you, if you were rude.”
“Shrike says I’m rude.”
Swallow gave a sympathetic smile.
“Swan, you could never be rude.”
I say nothing. I will never be
What this lady wants of me,
What he needs,
When what he needs isn’t a quick fuck.
And because the gods—
Because the gods—
8. Mother Emperor said, “You, swallow,
Will be the emblem of Luck.”
“And what will I be?” I asked. I asked, I asked.
She said, “You will be the bearer
Of the goddess-pearl. The one
That holds the worth
Of all the world.”
She said, “You must never part
With this pearl. If you feel
That it is endangered,
Trust it to a feline.”
Nine lives. Nine lives.
To kill all nine
Is to kill something sublime.
“What happens if I lose it?”
She looked away.
The Emperor of Heavens above,
Of Nectar and Crescent and Dove,
She looked away.
“Then you’ll lose all your luck.”
9. “—and then Shirohana smiled at me
And bambambam! went my heart and,
See, you know, you know
How stupendously wonderful
It is when someone you like
Smiles at you, right?”
I looked at him because I knew,
And I said nothing.
“Anyway, we’re together now, so,
You know, no more late night swims,
Or any of that other stuff, right?”
I said nothing,
then he kissed me.
10. I should’ve said goodbye then.
I wish I’d ended it.
But nothing changed,
And swallow didn’t save me,
And he didn’t even listen,
And the rabbit the rabbit the rabbit—
I stopped believing anyone
Would listen to me when I spoke.
I was beloved, I was someone’s beloved.
But it wasn’t ever Love I wanted,
It was—not to be the only one,
To know my tongue, to listen,
To hear, and to know,
And to know, and to act,
But I didn’t get that.
I don’t think I’ll ever get that.
0. And then a millennium passed.
“What is it, nekomata?”
“You know that thing
You say to me,
When you think I’m asleep?”
I don’t think of the rabbit
When we’re together,
Nor do I think of swallow-feather.
I think of you, and I,
“Tell me how to say that.”