Therianthropy (Love)

To find love, I become a swallow.

Therianthropy (Love)

I'll mount the air on swallow's wings
To find my dearest dear
And if I lose my labour
And cannot find him there
I quickly will become a fish to search the roaring seas
I love my love
Because I know my lover
He loves me

The Unthanks, 'Mount the Air'


To find love, I become a swallow. I want to see from as high up as I dare, but I am not used to heights. I wobble as the wind licks my wings. I cannot mount the air; the currents slide slick around me. Flitter, flutter. But, soon, though I am but a wink in the glowering gold of a summer morning, I mount the air, and beat my wings. My little bird heart ticks against my ribs.

There is so much sky. Too much sky. So I tuck my wings in and dive, dive, slicing and weaving, ribboning and swerving. I shed feathers like old sins. The pimpled flesh beneath hardens and catches clots of light. I crash into the water and breathe the truest breath.

Down here, sunshafts beckon and tease but do not come. Down here, things bend to their own peculiar pattern. I nose deeper, into murkier depths. A heavy silence, like moments after a death, awaits me. Down here it's all flat eyes and jagged edges and impatience. I wait, for want of anything else.

But I am looped up in a net and I am carried to the surface. So, aboard, I shed the scales and, newly-pelted, I snip the strings and swagger dockward. Sailors eye me, shrinking back at the woodknot under my proud tail. It is a nice day; I flex and bask in the sun.

Most of the week is spent sleeping, cooking myself in spotlights of raw sun, my eyes slits of ecstasy, pink pads saluting the sky. When I need to, a watch a mouse wriggle in my grasp until its eyes glaze in fear. I leave it uneaten, disgusted by its weakness.

My bones crackle. My snout lengthens. The world is a funk of raw meat and sweat and earth. Everything is a signal, a sign, a flare. My head snaps left, right. Parade ground. Attention. Good boy. Snout to ground. Good, what's this. Just checking. Always. Good boy.

And so I snuffle and snout and snift, tracing the rhythm and rhyme of the earth. The earth, I want to roll in it. I want to coat myself with it. I clot myself with it; I wear it like armour. But when the sun goes down it hardens and it cracks and I am ashamed.

I slink towards the house. There is a light on, above the guttering, on the first floor, a shallow light, like the light from under the sea. I shrink and pucker, becoming a bead. Eight legs fizz out. Click, click. I mount the drainpipe. Near the top, by the window. There is a crack. It is enough. I crawl in. I brush against unfamiliar threads. I move ever upwards, towards the upmost corner of the room, as the threads thicken.

And this is where I find you.