Swan Song

after the Persian of Mehdi Hamidi Shirazi

They say when the time comes for a swan to die,
it goes where other swans have gone to die.

They say as the last night begins to fall,
it trails behind the setting sun to die.

And it sings ghazals, as though it wished between
the pages of its own divan to die.

They say a swan loves only once and will
return to where its love was won to die.

Making its deathbed where it first made love,
it can forget it has withdrawn to die.

Are these tales true? In the desert, where I live,
no swan has come, not a single one, to die.

But then they say that swans return to water,
in whose embrace life was begun, to die.

Open your arms, my dear, and slake my thirst:
the time has come for one more swan to die.

Excerpted from The Palace of Forty Pillars by Armen Davoudian. Published with permission from Tin House. Copyright © 2024 by Armen Davoudian. All Rights Reserved.