Four Swans

2012-07-24 20.07.54

They came with a whirring, whooshing noise. Slow, steady, measured. Wings flapping. Graceful whiteness. Something other. The shock of the magic, a fairy-tale sensation. Four swans flying over the sea. We stopped talking, he and I, momentarily held rapt. Portentous. We were silenced. Privileged to share the same earth.

The portable fire wasn’t there so the life model posed half-clothed. Big boots and knickers. Erotic, the middle-aged lady with her pink plait called it. Yes. Later, drinking our coffee from flasks we talked of killing. The killing of animals. She is an ex-farmer who went to Lesotho as a volunteer. I can’t eat pork anymore, she said, not after I used to hear them squealing. Ten minutes it took them, she said, ten minutes of squealing before they died. Ducks are tough, she said, I used to put their heads in a sack and fetch the cleaver. Chickens are easy.

Walking towards the prom in the early morning dark I see a small dog pulling and gnawing at a large piece of pizza on the road. His owner, lead in hand, calls out to him.

Listening to a programme on the radio about the effect of fundamentalist groups on Iraq. They banned crayons, the man is saying, in the schools. No colour and no art.

Fasting on brown rice. Cleaning out the coffee. No more. At least not for a while. A bowl of rice. The simplicity, the concentration of one food pleases me. But I have a choice. I know this. I think of what it must be to be hungry and eat with gratefulness. Always.


By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.