Of the silver swan dipping its beak
in a sea of waves to catch a metal fish,
much has been written: how the water
glinted, the creature’s movement so realistic
one might mistake the swan for elaborate
disguise. Among the memorable automata
comes to mind the famous digesting duck
(lost to history), a bronze-guilt elephant,
cuckoos eternalized in YouTube clips.
But mechanisms fully-functioning or not,
nothing tops the golden Peacock Clock
ensconced in a glass aviary. In its forest
menagerie, a dragonfly perches on fungi,
as squirrel feeds on acorn and impish fox
rests on oak branch. To witness a technician
climb inside the cage, and wind the device,
rousing the peacock to life is pure delight.
The peafowl cranes its slender neck, turns
to fan its feathers, and dazzles audiences
with the splendor of its train. Flanked by
owl and cockerel, the trio greets morning’s
arrival, beaks singing to ringing chimes.
The stagehand rouses the cardboard
bevy on conveyor belt across the rear
of Swan Lake’s ground row, gliding
through the scenery. Kneeling
in secret from the KGB, a woman
prods her son away from the peephole
in Akhmatova’s shared suite. Cue
White Nights and Tchaikovsky
on no sleep. We lower the periscope
of Morskoi Boi’s arcade submarine
and pull the trigger, inflicting maximum
damage to enemy ships, all of which
are attached to moving chains. In praise
of war games and long-eroded links,
we ride Soviet-era elevators not yet
on last legs to catch the tram’s
yearly-decreasing fleet and descend
into the second subway’s nuclear shelter.
The company comes out for yet another
curtain call, the third circle disturbed
by ringing cellphones. Peel back the skin
to the proscenium’s inner workings:
all of life’s a teaser and tormentor,
a stage decorated in azure, gilt, crystal.
Only the elderly theatre attendant
flashing laser beams from balcony
to Tsar’s box can thwart the tourist’s
stolen frames. A Fabergé egg filled
with a ticking grenade. We pull out
all the last stops, the pin still in place.
Cassidy McFadzean lives in Toronto. She is the author of Hacker Packer (Penguin Random House Canada 2015) and Drolleries (PRHC 2019). A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, her poems have appeared in BOAAT, Prelude, Green Mountains Review, Fjords Review, and elsewhere.