~ For my grandchildren: Mila, Louis, Arlo, Holly, Otto, Nish and Teddy…
One day at the very end of winter, when the crisp air is powdered softly with the coconut golden scent of wattle, a mother swan makes a beautiful nest among water reeds near a grassy park. She lays six perfect eggs and she sits on them for a long time.
At the very start of blossomy Spring – bundles of pale grey fluff cheep and stir under her glossy black feathers.
Her babies have arrived…
Father Swan sails up from the wetlands after a day or two because it is time for the babies to plop out of their snug nest and learn to swim.
“Come on…you can do it!”
In they all go except for one tiny, scaredy cygnet who just doesn’t want to leave the soft warmth of his mother’s frilly feathers and the comforting smell of the cosy nest.
Mother and Father Swan take their new family out on a little adventure. Off they paddle through chilly water and a garden of tall reeds.
It is fun but also dangerous because the lake is full of creatures that like to eat newly hatched cygnets. Mother and Father Swan keep a sharp eye out for water rats and purple swamp hens…
“Go away!” Mother Swan hisses at a sneaky swamp hen lurking in the reeds.
Father Swan takes the braver cygnets out further from the nest…
…and Mother Swan counts her babies over and over again to make sure they are all there.
Scaredy Cygnet watches from the nest.
“Come back, Mum!”
Mother Swan climbs back into the nest and cuddles her scared baby.
The other cygnets dabble and splash close by …
Scaredy Cygnet snuggles up to Mother Swan…
“Don’t worry. You can learn to paddle tomorrow,” says Mother Swan.
Tomorrow arrives bright and early and the nest is empty.
Scaredy Cygnet has paddled off into the big lake with the rest of his family.
© Anita Patel, 2016
Published by anitapatel
Anita Patel is a writer (and retired teacher) who has lived in Canberra since 1982. She is as Australian as a banana paddle pop and a pair of sandy thongs and she is also a part of the Asian diaspora. Her collections of poetry are: 'Petals Fall' published by Recent Work Press in 2022 (https://recentworkpress.com/product/petals-fall) and 'A Common Garment' published by Recent Work Press in 2019 (https://recentworkpress.com/product/a-common-garment/).
In 2019, she collaborated with acclaimed artist, Annie Franklin, to produce 'Heart Stitched' (a story - in paintings and poetry - of the quirky, unexpected and dazzling layers in the natural world). They received significant support from Nancy Sever (Nancy Sever Gallery). In 2022, their second book 'Grief and Beauty' (which arose from the 2019-20 bushfires) was published - once again with support from Nancy Sever.
She has had work published in the Canberra Times, in Conversations (Pandanus Press, ANU), in Block 9, Burley Journal, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Demos Journal, Mascara Literary Review, Not Very Quiet Journal, Cordite Poetry Review, Backstory Journal, Other Terrain Journal, Pink Cover Zine, FemAsia Magazine, Plumwood Mountain Journal, Eucalypt: a tanka journal and Print Issue 42 of The Blue Nib Journal. Her work is also included in the following anthologies: The Australian Poetry Anthology (Vol. 8), 'This Gift This Poem' (Puncher and Wattman) and 'What We Carry' (Recent Work Press). Her children’s poems are included in an anthology 'Pardon My Garden' (Harper Collins). Her poem “Women’s Talk” won the ACT Writers Centre Poetry Prize in 2004 and her poetry was selected for and published in Australian Book Review’s States of Poetry ACT, 2018.
She has performed her work at the Canberra Multicultural Festival, Poetry on the Move Festival, Noted Festival, Floriade Fringe Festival, In Other Words Festival (at Lost in Books, Fairfield), the Queensland Poetry Festival, the National Folk Festival, at Smith’s Alternative, at Word in Hand (Glebe) and La Mama Poetica.
Her reviews, “Found in Translation”, on the performances of four Japanese women poets and their translators at Poetry on the Move Festival, 2017 and “No More Silent Waiting”, on the anthology Autonomy edited by Kathy D’Arcy (2018) have been published by Not Very Quiet Journal. She was the guest editor for Issue 2 of Not Very Quiet Journal. View all posts by anitapatel