“Not Swans” by Susan Ludvigson

I drive toward distant clouds and my mother’s dying.
The quickened sky is mercury, it slithers
across the horizon. Against that liquid silence,
a V of birds crosses-sudden and silver.

They tilt, becoming white light as they turn, glitter
like shooting stars arcing slow motion out of the abyss,
not falling.
Now they look like chips of flint,
the arrow broken.
I think, This isn’t myth-

they are not signs, not souls.
Reaching blue
again, they’re ordinary ducks or maybe
Canada geese. Veering away they shoot
into the west, too far for my eyes, aching

as they do.

Never mind what I said
before. Those birds took my breath. I knew what it meant.


from Sweet Confluence: New and Selected Poems, 2000
Louisiana State University Press

Copyright 2000 by Susan Ludvigson