'I Wonder If You Remember' by Jennifer Harvey
I saw the swans today, on the bridge. Just the two of them, the cygnets grown now, gone. There were six of them, remember? We'd make sure to always count them, check they were all there. ‘One, two, three, four, five, six.’ Rejoicing when the tally was met, because we had known summers when some were lost. They came in low, over the bridge, and I looked up the minute I heard that strange sound their wings make. You know? That peeping sound, like they're rusty or something. They were headed to that spot where the riverbank slopes, the one near the bridge where they always nest. And I had to think of you. That spring in particular, when we'd stood side by side and watched them. You got too close, and one of them - I guess it was the male - hissed at you and rose up, wings outstretched, to defend the nest. The sight of it sent you scrambling up the slope in a panic. I remember how confused you were, a little disappointed even. ‘How can something so beautiful be so mean?’ I had no answer for that. ‘Instinct isn't always beautiful,’ I could have told you. ‘Nature isn’t always graceful.’ When was that? Years ago, but I can’t seem to find the date. All I have is today. Me, standing on the bridge, alone. Watching the swans settle on the riverbank and wondering if they have returned out of some sort of nostalgia. You’d have laughed at that, wouldn’t you? Giving them qualities they cannot possess. But I like to imagine they look up too sometimes, when they hear that sound in the air, that peeping. I like to imagine them counting. ‘One, two, three, four, five, six.’ Keeping count, looking out for their young, even though it's no longer necessary. I like to think I share this with them. Anyway, seeing them made me think of you. Made me wonder if you'd have remembered this too.