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Sonja de Vries
Swans in the Red Light District

The canals reflect pink neon
signs: “Live Bondage”
“Real Lesbians” and other delights,
including a gorilla with a large
banana, which threatens or entices
depending on one’s point of view.

In this neighborhood, I walked
as a young girl, my grandfather
a bartender at the “The Laughing Cat.”
I liked that the women on the corners
and in the windows, who scoffed
at the men traveling in packs,
recognized me with their red-lit smiles.

Tonight under the neon signs of
the Casa Rosada, white swans
sleep, preen, glide through this
bottle strewn canal. Thirty-one of them,
my son counts. They are turn-of-the-century
madams, my mother tells us, come back
in all their feathered beauty to claim
their place again.