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(the writing in this comic is difficult to read – I’ve just filched it out of my journal because I haven’t had time to write comics for my blog!)

I’m pretty fascinated by swans. I like how elegant and threatening they are. I like their snaky necks, the way that when black swans stretch their wings they reveal an undercoat of white. I like the way their beaks seem red at first glance but then you notice they have a white stripe across the tip. I didn’t realise that they sounded like clarinets. I thought they only sang before they died, which is why it’s called the swan song. But the swans at Western Springs won’t shut up, and they’re not dying.

I don’t remember there being swans in Palmerston North. There were ducks at the lagoon, and my parents would take us down there to feed them bits of bread. I would walk up to the water’s edge and see myself stumbling, sinking into the muck, being pulled under by the weed, emerging slimy green and stinky for life. On the other side of the water were the gardens of the fancy houses and I would imagine what it would be like to live in them, whether I might have a boat to take out each morning, Swallows and Amazons-style.

I first learnt how to play Saint-Saëns’ The Swan when I was sixteen, and then I learnt it again when I took up the cello again at 26. I’d quit once I left home because it was too hard to practice in my youth hostel’s basement when I could’ve been drinking and talking about records with my friends. I quit again at 28, when I moved to New York City. But the swans that mob you for bread are nothing like the swans that glide across the lake. The bread-mobbing swans made it into The Fall of Light, the gliding Saint-Saëns swans made it into Dead People’s Music. I did a search on my short story anthology, Coming Up Roses, and there were swans in there too. I sometimes think about taking up the cello again. I wonder if I’d play The Swan differently now.

When I read my kids my favourite Ruth Manning-Sanders book of Folk and Fairy Tales, swans pop up quite a lot. They help a mermaid enchant an Icelandic prince to keep him captive. They ferry a Native American cannibal over to an island full of skeletons. I’m not the only one who finds them slightly sinister.

In other news, an exhibition of my drawings has opened at Te Manawa, Palmerston North, this Friday. A friend send me some small snaps but I’m hoping to get some bigger ones to show you soon. Check it out if you’re nearby – it will be running for a few months.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. 21/09/2013 10:54 pm

    Glad you fished this comic out of your journal. I like it. We used to keep geese instead of guard dogs where I grew up, which worked fine until someone stole them and plucked them (presumably, from the feather trail they left) en route to where their van was parked. I always remember being warned that a geese and swans can break your leg with the force of their wings.

    • Sarah Laing permalink
      22/09/2013 7:19 am

      Oh no! Your poor geese! Was that on Christmas eve?

  2. peterp99 permalink
    24/09/2013 1:29 am

    These are some killer swans.

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