II. Flight Patterns


1. The Seeming Impossibility



slides through the lens of the sea

and takes a shape tunneled deep

in the gyre of Sargasso, supple vertebrae

roped in a line under muscle

open at the throat. Ocean flows

in and out the gap like a breath,

like an ancient tide crossing

a fortress of picket teeth.

The eye fixes to unyielding ends

past shallows evolved to bridges,

the crofter's fence and fatal ponds.

The eel knows silences

and wants no excess.

There is no play in the taut skin,

no speech or revelation. There is

no forgiveness to stray

in the return to the dark target of its birth.

Glassy sport of seeps and mud

rendered silver in the ocean: Something

in the creature confirms the beginning

of light over the waters, the void

before flesh filled the spiraled shell,

before the advent of feather and bone,

ornament and song

and the explosion

of the seeming impossibility of flight.

                                                                          —Carolyn Yale





To take a walk on the meadow path before

I went to work at the bookstore that afternoon

endowed me with a memory that still swings

like an invisible medallion around my neck,

still perplexing me all these years later.  The heat

climbing as the sun rose higher in the sky,

the dry burn of it beginning to swelter in

a building humidity beneath banks of low cumulus. 

The two-lane meadow path winding onward

in its gritty tire tracks, split by its grassy tufts

of bent stalks of sedge and spike rush, roughed

by tractor undercarriage and sled.  As I walked,

I could feel my sweat beading beneath my shirt,

and before I came upon open meadow on the edge

of the woods, I stopped and turned, only

to look up into the upper branches of the white

oaks, swinging their heavy brooms of leaves,

windswept and lush with their whisking music,

shushing the polyphony of cicadas that fills

the house of summer.  When my eyes


spotted them, so unnatural, out of order,

among the swaying of the oaks, leading me


to think that the heat had induced a mirage,

a hallucinogenic vision of the flock


of wild turkeys balancing their unwieldy

bodies high in the trees to perch on the limbs. 


I can still see them up there, somewhere

above ground and beyond reason, the heat


of the day hammering the air so that the birds

seemed to mirror themselves in a haze—


wild turkeys that had been able to raise

the heaviness of their bodies up on their pygmy


wings and to have flown into the oaks

along the path, their presence alerting me


to having seen something untoward, freakish,

even in their apparent hiding their seeming


unbidden, out of position, the uneasy but sheer

certainty of knowing their being out of place.

                                                                                      Wally Swist




If bats were lone among the beasts that fly


If bats were lone among the beasts that fly,

And feathers never seen to course the sky

In V’s of honking geese, or shrieking flocks

Of herring gulls, or silent soaring hawks,

How then would poets sing of love on wing?

What images would writers use to fling

Our hearts aloft--without the mourning dove,

Without the lark and pinioned wings of love?


Oh, do not doubt that poets still would rhyme,

And lovers still would loose their hearts to climb

Like bats on wing, like bats on high, and sigh

"Now bat-like, lover, bat-like to me fly!”

For in a world bereft of grace like that,

Lovers would find beauty in a bat.

                                                                       Eric Chevlen




Ancient Voices


Tuesdays and Thursdays

I walk to school

on sidewalk boxes

past manicured lawns.


I cut behind the houses

and down the path

across the south fork of the Kinnikinnic.


Crossing the bridge, forgetting my watch,

I stop, dip my hand in,

the current pressing my palm coldly.


I close my fist, raise it up,

dripping jewels that slip away

to recover their source.


So easy at 7 a.m.

to imagine I am glimpsing

an ancient world alone:

clovis-pointed, a flock of geese

presses against the autumn morning,

black light honking behind the rising sun.


How many times

the same flight at the edge of a world?

 Moving toward me now, the flock slices through

Indian corn sky.  The clouds locked like hands

relax into a thousand fingers

while the sun slips between. 

The nearer the geese

the less flock, the more birds,

each one forming in my eye,

some larger, some smaller,

the leader retiring its place to another.

Over my head, the wings hum

like power lines.


Cackling into the northwest,

peculiar shapes dimming,

they seem randomly splayed

against the sky, particles

with the same dark charge.

Small enough now

I could almost cover them

with my hand,

though I can never grasp them.


Ancient voices speak without words

and always fade too quickly.

                                                                   Steve Luebke






I watch winter-grey clouds roll over 

 a snow-carpeted, frozen-framed lake

as a white-collared flying thing swoops

through the cold smell of snow.


With a feathered fleck of yellow, it hovers,

draws in the white, the grey and the movements

of all things below its wings –

perhaps searching out from a hunger?


But then it soars, without purpose,

releasing a fresh freedom of flight,

to anywhere at any time with that impulse of

what is ancient in things that want to live.


Is it speaking a silent cry to the gentle snow?

We are not the only ones who can cry

out to the what of what we cannot fathom.


Or is it despairing at solving a mystery,

elusive, unknown but only sensed through flight,

making substance of this encirclement of light?


Showing its competency in

wing-beat, flick and glide, Phoenix-like

it climbs towards the mountain.

Skill, speed and its own arc of flight

presents itself to me and gives comfort as

I shudder short, and then dream in that desire

to soar above a world of bewildering ruin and hope.

                                                                                                   Pearse Murray






Winter has fled.

An angelic host of Trumpeter swans

glides the open river,

parts the gray waters

with the proud elegance of clouds


until a hidden enemy startles the flock.

In unison, their necks unfurl,

extend upriver,

heads held inches above the surface

like silvery swords leading a charge.


Two dozen wings reach and punch

the water, a syncopated volley­–

their thick bodies charge, strain,

then elevate just enough

to reveal windmilling feet,


small explosions of spray

providing enough lift for the wings

to beat open air:

the snap and whoof

of cavalry flags in a gale,


the swans’ necks still taut,

now like thick ropes pulling

them forward,

until at last the feet retract,

and a single bark by their leader


announces flight–

a sharp wheel to the east

allows them a last look

at their ghostly reflections

sliding beneath them


along the river’s surface,

their wings still compressing air

like a thrumming heartbeat,

like mine.

                                                                   Guy Thorvaldsen





There is a faint panting of wings; a small cloud

of dusk.

Thirty yards away from me, across the darkness

of the wood, it swoops up to perch on the branch

of an oak.

The sparrow hawk lurks in the dusk; in the true dusk,

in the dusk before dawn; in the dusty cobwebby

dusk of hazel and hornbeam; in the thick gloomy

dusk of firs and larches.

It will fold into a tree.

Looking through binoculars, my eyes

are almost at one

with the small head—rounded at the crown,

feathers sleeking up to a peak

at the back; curved beak

pushed deep into the face.

The gray and brown feathers

streaked and mottled with fawn:

camouflage against the dawn bark of trees,

dappled canopy of sunlit leaves.

It crouches slightly forward, stretching its neck;

flicks its head from side to side. The eyes

are large with small dark pupils rimmed

by yellow—a blazing darkness

that shines and seethes.

The glaring madness dies away.

The hawk unstiffens, preens.

Its eyes rekindle.


Swooping softly down,

it flits east, rising and falling,

following contours of the ground;

wingbeats quick, deep,

deceptively quiet.


A wood pigeon, feeding on acorns

in the snow beneath, looks up

at the dark shape dilating down,

hears the hiss of wings.

                                                 Constance Rowell Mastores




                                      for Michael Jeneid

Circling upward in a blue sky

and having won the ascent, the falcon,

towering in its pride of place,

stoops—accurate, unforeseen,

absolute—between wind-ripples

over harvest. The quarry trembles.


Footed-kill finished,

wings churn air to flight.

She rises, then is gonewhole,

without urgencyfrom sight,

to where dazzle rebuts

our stare, wonder our fright.

                                                  Constance Rowell Mastores



Turkey Vulture


Where waiting vultures wheel,

their closing rounds reveal

how the spiral path

of dying spins to death.

                               David Olsen



Seeling night


At times, the road below
pulled past endlessly,
until I could feel the turns ahead,
and my head swayed with the creaking lamp,
wings bound, eyes encased in black,
the night eternal,
only the church bells to remember.


One I heard
a cat approach, withdraw, approach again.
I could smell its sweet breaths
and hear the hunger in its claws
nearing my throat.
It spared me from fear, I think,
knowing what I am.


All around me was what I feared:
Cruel laughter, clink of coins, 
words that bite the air,
whips snapping,
horses shrieking,
drunken men, my owners.


I almost surrendered to
my exile, exhaustion, thirst,
their mocking cries,
and the dark within the dark.


Now I feel your careful fingers
loose the threads at last.
The night withers
and my eyes crave the light of lights.


I ascend to you, Father of heights.
I follow my cries
to my pride of place,
a blue no man can see.


I journeyed, dying,
across eternities,
reborn at last,
in the bend of my beating wings.

                                                                              Sean Lause


Song Without a Border


As I tend to our orange grove,

this Golden Oriole lands on my shoulder.

I stop still in gentle astonishment.


It starts to sing its song of yearning.

That banal wall is just two hundred metres away.

Another, across that border, tends to her olive grove.


Now we both hear a back and forth of two:

feint, plaintive, urgent flute-whistlings that

makes more sonorous the scented breeze.


Can a sky-song dissolve all our shared tears?

Can a flight-song ignite Otherness?

Can symphónia be offered outside music?


As the sky leans against their lifting wings of desire

they instruct us on how to call on each other

and pre-figure a world without our dividing no.

                                                                              Pearse Murray



Doing the Aubade


The Snow Owl folds her wings in the black air

and yields to the dawning of flight-song to elsewhere –


where the Sandpiper scurries along          

Maine’s Atlantic tidal shore,.


the White-Tailed Eagle yaws over the Isle of Mull.

and the Artic Tern tears by drifting icebergs.


Where a Cape Petrel glides and wing-beats over Antarctica,

And a Whooper Swan honks sad near a Hokkaido wetland,


As Crows, in feathering rags of slate-black,

caw-cackle the air over Hampstead Heath.


Where a Scarlet Tanager triples half-notes in a Costa Rican forest

and a Red Cardinal wakes up a New York suburb.


When a Grey Heron squawks life into a seal bay on Inis Mór.        

a Chiffchaff chirps in the gardens of Haddon Hall.


The dark Marsh Harrier cries in the Camargue

And a Hairy Woodpecker beats music into a Berkshire maple.


A Condor soars silent over an Andean cliff

and a Demoiselle Crane grieves in a Russian steppe.


A White-rumped Shama in an Indian forest

utters a life’s worth of song in one score.


A Golden Oriole makes the Levant air

sonorous which recognizes no borders.


All song-tapestry, throat-throbbing febrile-fuss,

and each dawn, each place, each feather asserts yes to

the light that lights their dawns of promise.

Will they remain in tune with their blae-blue globe,

in the magic of the beginning and the dying of notes,

their variable, incurable, fleeting slide in which

they will rise every day without a no to the now?

                                                     Pearse Murray



Night vision


Driving home late on ice-bitten road,
my headlights probing like a blind-man’s fingers,
the night trembling with snow, my boy
blissfully asleep in his magic chair.


They appeared from the abyss
as if projected by the moon,
their legs flowing silently through the snow,
a herd of deer, fleeing remembered guns.


Leaping in plumes of electricity,
embracing us in soft brown flesh,
implicating me in my own breaths
and every snow that falls unseen.


Their eyes seemed to know me from long ago,
their leafy heads nodding as if in prayer.
We swung in one motion, relentless, pure,
then they curved beneath the night and disappeared.


When my son stirred, I could not tell
who had dreamed and who had been awake.
I only knew we were safe and blessed,
and I had never lived and would never die.

                                                                            Sean Lause





The unit of sky is the feather.

It flutters down

from the freshly wakened blue,

the inevitable result

of a new one growing in,

or a raptor striking in mid-flight,

or a collision with a tree

or maybe, one just yanked out by a beak

in a fit of soaring hubris.

But gliding through air, it's neutral.

Alighting on the ground,

it says nothing of what's come before.

Picked up, examined,

maybe worn in the hair,

pasted into a collage,

or slid between the pages of a book,

it begins a new life,

not its old one.

The unit of earth

is the feather,

appropriated, plagiarized,

adopted, usurped,

for no earthly reason.

John Grey



Swallowtail (Papilionidae) 


The line of cars files ahead

past the end of sight.


A fluttering, falling leaf

drifts across the road.


Resolves into a butterfly, floating,

then gently flexing wings.


It reaches a flowerbed, with roses,

bounded beside the road.


The light changes, the rank releases

squalling brakes, grinds on.

                                                     Tony Reevy



The Collective


Earth shudders.  A thousand birds have flown up in one single

unlikelihood, a murmuration of starlings concerted, turning once,

as one, and again, with a bold knowing.


So patterned, like the iterations on an Amish quilt;

space enough between each to dodge the hawk and the eagle.

Appearances surmise a leader risen among them


who, like Moses, has been dawdling in an ordinary occupation

when suddenly called to serve, to teach

formation and the shimmer precisely as sheets drying on a line,


or have they slyly come untethered, come into their own

desire, to swoop and dive into spectacle?  What is  freedom if not

knowing one’s own body, moving on its own, and ecstatic,


in tandem with companions, casting sedition against a blank sky?

           Florence Weinberger