When it dies, the whooper swan sings—
a drawn out trellising of soft running notes—
a glissando as its lungs collapse.
It isn’t that the swan tries
to be beautiful then
after a lifetime of bugling.
No, the effect is strictly mechanical,
they say, an additional tracheal loop
within the swan’s sternum.
Isn’t it like us to want to believe
that the swan gives its greatest effort
at the end? Anything to release us
from the tedium and noise
of the day to day—as if doing it better later
releases us from the moment’s scale.
Sometimes we sing
and fail to recognize our own tune.
Sometimes we try too hard
and our effort comes out less song,
more honk, more strangled cry.
What if, instead of weighting
the finale, we focus on the few notes
we’ve been given and every day
do with them the best we can—
play with their volume, their
timbre, their tempo, their texture—
learn to feel them resonant
in our bodies, learn to find them
beautiful as they join the air,
the tune still warm from our breath
as we scatter our song across the fields,
across the highways, the forests,
letting it touch everything we love
and everything we are still
learning to love.