Fountains of Aix

By May Swenson 1913–1989 May Swenson
Beards of   water
                      some of them have.
         Others are blowing whistles of   water.
         Faces astonished that constant   water
                  jumps from their mouths.
                   Jaws of lions are snarling   water
through green teeth over chins of moss.
                              Dolphins toss jets of   water
                                    from open snouts
                              to an upper theater of   water.
                     Children are riding swans and   water   
       coils from the S-shaped necks and spills
                        in flat foils from pincered bills.
                            A solemn curly-headed bull
                            puts out a swollen tongue of   water.   
                                 Cupids naked are making   water   
                               into a font that never is full.
                   A goddess is driving a chariot through   water.
                         Her reins and whips are tight white   water.
                         Bronze hoofs of horses wrangle with   water.
                              Marble faces half hidden in leaves.
                         Faces whose hair is leaves and grapes
                         of stone are peering from living leaves.
                                       Faces with mossy lips unlocked
                                                               always uttering   water,
                                                wearing their features blank   
                                             their ears deaf, their eyes mad
                                          or patient or blind or astonished at   water
                                           always uttered out of their mouths.

May Swenson, “Fountains of Aix” from Nature: Poems Old and New. Copyright © 1994 by May Swenson. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Source: Nature: Poems Old and New (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1994)

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Poet May Swenson 1913–1989

Subjects Painting & Sculpture, Arts & Sciences

Poetic Terms Concrete or Pattern Poetry, Ekphrasis

 May  Swenson


During her prolific career, May Swenson received numerous literary awards and nominations for her poetry. Often experimental in both form and appearance, her poems earned her widespread critical acclaim. As Priscilla Long commented in the Women's Review of Books, "Swenson was a visionary poet, a prodigious observer of the fragile and miraculous natural world."

Swenson's poetry has been praised for its imagery, which is . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Painting & Sculpture, Arts & Sciences

Poetic Terms Concrete or Pattern Poetry, Ekphrasis

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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