“Swans”, “Playplace” and “Nana Stares Out the Window”

by Claudia Glenn

Moths

Swans

I didn’t expect it to be locked,

when I pulled the heavy glass door.

We stood there stunned like birds

who fly into a woman’s window

making her feel both guilt and pride

for the precision of her scrubbing.

My hands still smelled of pennies

from when we realized they installed meters

and I had to maneuver between fast food receipts

in the glove box

for something bigger than a dime.

We decided to sit on the hill

And live out the remaining hour

and twenty-five minutes

Watching people paddleboat,

Romantic bumper cars like swans floating below,

And wondering whether the homeless

Use that water to bathe at night

Because we would.

You lounged there toying

With your baby hairs

And your shadow became a monkey

Searching for lice

Or scratching its head in confusion.

I remembered River

And how we would watch the same episode

Of Curious George

Standing up to rewind every twenty minutes

Until it was time to play

In the sandbox.

We’ve been to the beach since then,

Wandered through Times Square

Eating pistachio gelato,

Driven to Chicago

In the pitch-black pouring rain,

But I still prefer the hill.

Two daisy thieves,

Absently humming,

Asking the air

why a museum would close on Mondays,

And being glad it did

Because we saw the Frisbee sun

And how it made the water sparkle

So that the swans roamed through a sea of stars

And that was art enough.

Playplace

Hold my hand while we run up the stairs.

I know it makes us stumble and our palms are damp,

But if this were a movie or music video,

Our fingers would be intertwined.


I remember when you first showed me this spot, your spot.

You said the cops never come but if they do don’t run, just walk.

They’re only photos.

We’re only artists— or trying.


Why did you trust me with this secret?

You say it’s just an abandoned parking garage,

But we both know it holds the magic of a McDonald’s playplace,

And the danger of a highway bridge at rush hour.


Everything is just a roadmap from this tower.

People disappear into the sidewalk,

And no one can see us because no one is looking up.

I wonder if they’re smiling.


You don’t let me take your picture,

But I can’t resist.

I capture your legs dangling off the ledge,

And wonder if you ever feel fear.


I fill my memory cards with snapshots of the city

Not because it is particularly attractive,

But because it is particular.

It is home no matter where my body wanders.


Don’t zoom in.

Let me remember how little we all are,

And how the skyscrapers look like a giant’s building blocks,

And how the graffiti wall is a Michelangelo mural,

And how beautiful the light is when it strikes the windows

Of people working desk jobs

Who complain about the glare.

Nana Stares Out the Window

In a kitchen that smells of burnt coffee.

The morning silence is broken,

The first words of the day—

“Look, quick!”


Her eyes fill with light

Like she just spotted

The forgotten ruby earring

That was lost in the sand last summer.


Outside: a red throat dances, humming among the leaves.


Her body becomes the statue

Of a strong Greek goddess

Unaware of her missing right hand;

More beautiful for it.


Her breathing is calm

Lungs filling with recycled air

Of hundred-year-old oak trees

And freshly bloomed azaleas.


The hummingbird lingers at the feeder

Drinking the sinful red nectar

Too good to be true

Too sweet to resist.


Aware of what is at stake

Her eyes meet mine to whisper

This is life. Only this.

And then they return.


I study her face—

A road map

Of past laughter and tears.

Where will this moment remain?


The hummingbird vanishes

Playing hide and go seek

Through the glass window.

Nana squints.


The tree is again just a tree; the dance a fading memory.


Every morning the bird returns

And every morning she is greeted

By the wonder of a child

Who just saw their first snow

And the wisdom of a woman

Who decides to make a snow angel

Knowing it could be her last.

About the Author

Claudia Glenn

Claudia Glenn is a Saint Louis native and currently studying at the University of Denver. This is her first published work.