Ritual for the New Ancestors by Heather Swan

Ritual for the New Ancestors

As the moon wanes, watch
         for the raft of coots

floating on the water
         too frigid to swim in,

small bodies clustered
         close together the way

we humans might gather
         in our grief when

it is possible to gather.
         Let the strong wind

pass through you––
         have you seen the wind

comb a field of bluestem?––
         and wait to feel something

untangle, your sharpnesses
         suddenly smoothing. An owl

will call out above your head;
         let it fill your hollows.

There will be stars
         caught in the water;

let your dark eyes
         mirror that shine.

A white stag will appear
         at the edge of a wood,

and you will know again
         your own heart.

What I tell you
         is not a fairy tale.


Heather Swan’s creative nonfiction has appeared in Aeon, Belt, Catapult, ISLE, Edge Effects, Emergence, and Minding Nature. Her book Where Honeybees Thrive: Stories from the Field won the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award. Her poems have appeared in About Place, Cold Mountain Review, The Hopper, One Art, Phoebe, Poet Lore, Midwestern Gothic, The Raleigh Review, and Terrain, and have been included in several anthologies. Her collection A Kinship with Ash (Terrapin Books) was a finalist for the ASLE Book Award and the Julie Suk Award. Her chapbook, The Edge of Damage (Parallel Press) won the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Award. She teaches writing and environmental literature at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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