Two Ivory Swans

Two Ivory Swans

fly across a display case

as they flew across Siberian tundra

twenty thousand years ago,


heralding thaw on an inland sea,

their wings, their necks, stretched, stretched

vulnerable, magnificent.

Their whooping set off a harmonic

in someone who looked up,

registered the image

of the great journeying birds

and, with a hunter-gatherer’s hand

carved their tiny white likenesses

from the tip of the tusk

of the greatest of all land-mammals,

wore them for a while,

or traded or gifted them

before they were dropped down time’s echoing chute,

to emerge, strong-winged,


to fly across our time.

The British Museum, April, 2013

Moya Cannon's most recent collection, Hands (Carcanet Press, Manchester), was shortlisted for the 2012 Irish Times Poetry Now Award. She has been editor of Poetry Ireland Review and was 2011 Heimbold Professor of Irish Studies at Villanova University.