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Leda Ponders Yeats’s Sonnet

My thighs were loosening, in his account;
As if, after some struggle, I began
To overcome my terror of the swan
And please it in the role of willing mount.

My cunt was dry. The chafing made me bleed.
There was no feathered glory, no consent.
Its penis was its blood’s blunt instrument
And blood was all that issued from the deed.

The poet asks if I, the raped, put on
The knowledge with the power of the beast
While it was in me. Did I get the taste
For knowing what the creature had foreknown?

Had ever screams been strangled in his throat,
He would have had his answer as he wrote.

Audio file

Listen to this poem — read by the author

Leda and the Swan — W.B. Yeats

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
                                       Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

Audio file

Listen to this poem — read by Joe Mahon