A lamentation of swans

[things that are thrilling] when you wake before dawn to rain and you can hear it falling on the pavement and on the rooftops. Sometimes, there is thunder and lightning and the lightning illuminates the sky in a way that thrills. How the noise of thunder can at once sound so near and at other times, like it is coming from deep within the earth itself. 

To see the rain streak the glass windowpanes in the small pool of light thrown from a street lamp. A thousand tiny reflections and refractions of light. 

The headlights of cars shining white along the highway, as they rush toward their destinations. 

The soft cocoon of your bed where you burrow in warm sheets while your lover sleeps.

You returned from the village. You brought back dark, ripe cherries and peaches and soft plums. Fat purple figs. You set a feast. The neighbors came. You ate with your hands and licked the sticky sweetness from your fingers. You stayed out in the dying light until the rain began to fall. First in a handful of droplets on the brick patio, then in a sudden torrent and you gathered up the fruits and dishes while the rain soaked you through.

[groupings of birds] A cast of falcons. A colony of gulls. A band of jays. A creche of penguins. A bouquet of pheasants. A tidings of magpies. A parliament of owls. An ostentation of peacocks. A congress of ravens. A host of sparrow.

Inside, your guests shed their wet things. You gave them towels and blankets in which they wrapped themselves. You built a small fire and they came around it, their voices hushed and low like you were gathering for prayer. You tended the fire. 

The man who would later share your bed collected up the empty glasses and carried them into the kitchen while your guests sang songs in whispery voices. 

You followed him. You found him crouched low to the floor picking up pieces of broken glass. His murmured apologies. You lowered yourself to your knees, stilled his hands with your own. Then you brought his fingers to your mouth. 

A charm of finches. A sedge of cranes. An aerie of hawks. A siege of herons. An ascension of larks. A descent of woodpeckers. A skein of geese in flight. 

You were quiet and swift. There were shards of glass in your hair. You could still hear singing from the other room, murmured and low. 

When you return, your guests have begun to gather their things. You walk them out to the street in a light but constant rain. 

You stay up late. There are still figs and he traces lines across your bones with each fruit, from rounded shoulder to clavicle, then from hip to pointed hip before he breaks the purple skin with his teeth. 

When you were a child, you swam in the neighbor’s pool in the summer, the cool water such delicious relief from the stultifying heat. She brought you cold tea and you watched as rivulets formed on the glass as it sat there in the relentless sun.

Sometimes, she would talk to you about the child she had lost, who would have been the same age as you were. You did not know what to say. You were a serious child and you furrowed your brow and nodded your head. You listened intently. 

She would bring you a towel. She would sometimes hold your hand. If there were ripe peaches, she would bring those, too. 

She taught you the names of the birds. When there was time before you would be called home, she would take a thick volume from a shelf in her kitchen. She would flip through the pages and let you hold your finger out when you wanted her to stop on a page. Then together, you would look at the photographs, and she would read the descriptions aloud in her sweet, soft voice, itself a kind of song.

A spring of teals. A lamentation of swans. A watch of nightingales.