They used to notch our beaks as marks of ownership. They used to carve until hot knife hit pay dirt. You don’t think we’ve paid to be where we are now? We might be gliding on the Thames, but that’s climbing the ladder, baby. Upward mobility. Our great-great-great-great-great grandfathers died for this, roasted alive, and it wasn’t quick either, because they had to keep those feathers looking pretty. Pure white, you know. All the better to cut into at dinner, crispy tail, collapsed wings, and we certainly had no sympathy then. From you or any other species. Tastes like chicken, the King probably said. Go figure, though, people like you think it’s easy. To stay where we are, on top of the food chain, to keep groomed, to keep quiet, to live up to our mute-swan species title, even as our perfect throats and bright teethed tongues ache from disuse. Don’t try to talk to me about those endangered swans from other ponds. You don’t think we fought our way out of that class too? Baby, we invented endangered. We kept our poise. We’ve got the right to stay uninvolved. Let’s see if you can sacrifice what we did to be pampered like us now.
Anne Chen (she/her) is a rising senior from Chicago, Illinois