How from the doldrums of the day
they tumbled; only swallows skimming treetops.
Yet no wheeling eagle could compete
with this sudden squall of sickle wings,
roller coasters sprung from nowhere,
or conjured from the air itself, pouring
in from everywhere like rain.
No ordered flock, but schools of comets
spinning tails of flame. Arsonists
lighting the sodden woodlands,
and the greenwood of myself halfway
through an August afternoon.
They did not stay to fan the fire,
so I sprouted wings of words and joined them,
keen to learn what flying means–
not dragging wings through air as geese do,
pumping steady over oceans; nor like egrets,
snow-white flappers floating on the sky’s
black river; and nothing like the owl
I saw today slide deathly mute
through mazy pines.
These masters lack what swallows
effortlessly effuse: not skill, nor grace,
but thrill and simmer. Flying exclamation points
darting from no place to no place fast,
banking and swerving like dervishes, like
shards of light, bouncing on the trampoline
of air. As if flight were not a flapping habit,
but a dizzy calling, less a way of moving
than of falling constantly into astonishment–
then catching themselves midair and winging off
to join the reeling flock.
~ Richard Schiffman
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