Aaron Belz’ brand new poem “Swan Song”

Among just one of my pleasures at the St. Louis Writers Guild Loud Mouth Open Mic last week, was meeting Aaron Belz and becoming introduced to his “gravely hilarious” poems, as Denise Duhamel describes them. I bought a copy of “The Bird Hoverer” spent some enjoyable time with his hovering birds over several afternoons.

Aaron Belz was born in 1971 in Iowa City, Iowa. When I asked him (thinking he’d grown up there) if being born in the place of the Iowa Writers Workshop had changed his writing life in any way, he replied, “I don’t know, I was largely unconscious at the time.” That’s drollery, fit for an 18th century chocolate house. Aaron lives in St. Louis, now, where he has hosted the Observable Reading series since fall of 2003, now in its fifth season. Observable Readings is, “not a reading group, exactly, but a reading series that showcases poets from all over the country,” says Aaron.

Aaon’s poems have appeared in notable journals such as “The Boston Review,” but he wrote “Swan Song” especially for Riehlife. For me, it takes me back to my passion for mythology in 5th grade when I read every book on the shelf…and went on to study folklore in college. I like how this poem builds and circles around on itself…and reveals more of Aaron’s Restoration-era wit. –JGR

by Aaron Belz

The mute swan, Cygnus olor,
sings one melancholy song
before it dies; or so we thought

‘til modern science shook
its harness bells and pulled
society’s buggy toward a truer truth.

The mute swan never sings
(hence the name) just as the fat
lady doesn’t signal an opera’s end

necessarily. What is it with
these persistent myths
about songs that happen

just before the ends of things?
Birds of a feather flock together—
so they say. But what about a horse

of a different color? It neither
flocks nor sings a heartbreaking
song. Nor does a gift horse.

Sometimes I picture Lady G.
atop her horse, which probably
trotted along oblivious of its nude

rider; but was Zeus, in his swan
costume, oblivious of Leda riding
nude atop him? Interesting to note

that male swans and ducks
are the only birds with schlongs—
they can be forty centimeters long.

So maybe it was the mortal Leda
who felt compelled to sing.
Mythology is disgusting.


Next up on Observable Readings on February 7 – Esiaba Irobi and Obi Nwakanma

Poet and playwright Esiaba Irobi was born in the Republic of Biafra and has lived in exile in Nigeria, Britain and the USA. His book of poetry, Why I Don’t Like Philip Larkin, was published by Nsibidi Publishers in Massachusetts in August, 2003. Irobi is on the faculty of Ohio University.

Obi Nwakanma is the author of The Horsemen and Other Poems (Africa World Press 2007). His first collection of poetry, The Roped Urn, won the ANA / Cadbury Award, Nigeria’s highest poetry prize. Nwakanma has also written a biography of the late poet Christopher Okigbo, who was killed during the Biafra War, entitled Thirsting for Sunlight. He received his MFA from Washington University.

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