Swanmaiden Electric

by Oliver Smith

The princess sleeps on a muddy river running

with flowers, dead dogs, oil spills, futures, catfish, 

crayfish, carpfish, recollections, history, dreams;

glitches, circuit boards, a broken city weaving   

lonely midnights at the sacred well of widowhood,

moonlit castles, Sputniks, frogs, and golden balls.

Sometimes behind the razor-hedge of magic thorn,

she thinks she is the secret food of the spider feasting:  

her thoughts dead flies and cobwebs in the rain.

Her voice awakens singing like the forgotten faces

that transmit themselves sadly beneath the airwaves.

She sings to the prince’s reflection in her TV Screen,

her white throat stretching down to the poor, drowned stars.

Since the fields washed away, his Plexiglas coffin  

floats and  sputters like a faulty hologram spinning

down among the drowned  skulls and spines  and  ribs

and fallen oaks and limpid memory dragged in 3D

from river bed, from lake, from pond, from pool, from stream.

In the sky; disturbed fire, neglected water, she flows

on majestic wings, each beat roaring like a jet plane

from the shallows into the heights. She ascends

beyond cloud to a ceiling built with kingfisher-turquoise

and azurite and lapis stones hung in the thin, cold air.

But this world, these stars, this moon are unfleshed

and deboned. She would ride her metal feathers

so high. She glitters like a wax doll in the witch-flames

and her remnants dissolve; fireworks lost in the night.

Oliver Smith is a visual artist and writer from Cheltenham, UK.  He is inspired by the Tristan Tzara, J G Ballard, and Max Ernst; by frenzied rocks towering above the silent swamp, by the strange poetry of machines; by unlikely collisions between place and myth and memory.

His poetry has been published in ‘Abyss & Apex’, ‘Alchemy Spoon’, ‘Ink, Sweat, and Tears’, ‘Strange Horizons’ and ‘Sylvia Magazine’ and has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

In 2020 Oliver was awarded a PhD in Literary and Critical Studies by the University of Gloucestershire.

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