On a Swan’s Wing

For Sacha Dench


She flies on a single swan’s wing,
engine thrumming in her head,
swan’s heart beating

like the hammer in Arctic ice
driving wingbeats southward

down flight-ways
over the Rakovie Lakes,
the Taiga, the Gulf of Finland,

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,
Slonsk National Park in Poland,
Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands,

Belgium, France, across the foaming
Channel to the White Cliffs,
then back to Slimbridge,

the mudflats of the Severn
to dip her beak into
home sands.


They say that shaman fly
in bird form,
transform to seek answers,

stake their souls against the winds
of industrialisation,
brave the guns,

return exhausted
with shattered pieces
of the world-soul.


Nine Bewick’s swans were tagged,
told apart by the patterns
on their beaks:

Butters, Charlotte, Daisy Clark,
Eileen, Leho, Hope, Maisie,
Pola, Zolotitsa.

We are gathering the pixels
of their data,
trying to assemble a picture.

A story is forming in the electric night
like when the first bacteria
birthed life:

wetlands shrinking like ice caps,
swans falling from the sky
like comets;

wings snapped on powerlines,
feathered corpses pumped
full of lead.


She says our destinies are intertwined,
hang upon a swan’s wing.
She flies away

at the end of the rite
to join the swans returning
to the Arctic at the call of spring.

*You can find out more about Sacha’s radical journey as a human swan and The Flight of the Swans project HERE.

Lorna Smithers

Lorna Smithers profile picLorna Smithers is an awenydd, Brythonic polytheist and devotee of Gwyn ap Nudd recovering lost stories of the land and myths of forgotten gods and leaving Signposts in the Mist. She is the author of Enchanting the Shadowlands, editor of A Beautiful Resistance: The Fire is Here and a contributor to Awen ac Awenydd, Dun Brython, and Gods & Radicals.

Lorna Smithers was the editor of the second issue of A Beautiful Resistance, and also has a piece in the most latest issue, A Beautiful Resistance: Left Sacred. You can buy both here.

6 thoughts on “On a Swan’s Wing

  1. Thanks for writing this Lorna. I like David Attenborough’s observation (on the WWT webiste) implicitly comparing how swans inhabit the land we call Russia, Europe, and the U.K without drawing rigid borders. Doubtless they set up territories, but do it in a mor fluid, less damaging way. The flight of a swan is something to behold from close quarters!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We have to keep campaigning to get lead out of shot in the UK – all the grazing wetland birds are vulnerable to it as they pick up what they think are small stones to help with digestion, and are poisoned. The number of swans who have lead shot in them is distressing as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi, I recently discovered your poem and showed it to Sacha,(she loved it!) and wondered if I could share it in a blog post I am writing about swans, transformation and pieces of work inspired by Sacha’s journey. I have made pieces for her and around the Bewicks including a swan totem that she wore the entire migration journey!
    It’s fascinating to discover your blog. x Angharad


    1. Hi Angharad, yes, of course – I’d be honoured. I’d love to hear more Sacha’s swan totem. Do let me know when the post goes up and I’ll link to it.

      Nice to discover your blog too. Coincidentally I’ve been involved in a couple of pollinator projects in my locality over the years – one was Bees, Butterflies and Bikes which involved planting wildflowers around a cycle path. Recently native black bees (apis mellifera too I think) have been re-introduced in my area.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.