By David Bottoms
We have all seen them circling pastures,
have looked up from the mouth of a barn, a pine clearing,
the fences of our own backyards, and have stood
amazed by the one slow wing beat, the endless dihedral drift.
But I had never seen so many so close, hundreds,
every limb of the dead oak feathered black,
and I cut the engine, let the river grab the jon boat
and pull it toward the tree.
The black leaves shined, the pink fruit blossomed
red, ugly as a human heart.
Then, as I passed under their dream, I saw for the first time
its soft countenance, the raw fleshy jowls
wrinkled and generous, like the faces of the very old
who have grown to empathize with everything.
And I drifted away from them, slow, on the pull of the river,
reluctant, looking back at their roost,
calling them what I'd never called them, what they are,
those dwarfed transfiguring angels,
who flock to the side of the poisoned fox, the mud turtle
crushed on the shoulder of the road,
who pray over the leaf-graves of the anonymous lost,
with mercy enough to consume us all and give us wings.
David Bottoms, “Under the Vulture-Tree” from Armored Hearts: Selected and New Poems. Copyright © 1995 by David Bottoms. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press.
Source: Armored Hearts: Selected and New Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 1995)
More By This Poet
Sign for My Father, Who Stressed the Bunt
On the rough diamond,
the hand-cut field below the dog lot and barn,
we rehearsed the strict technique
of bunting. I watched from the infield,
the mound, the backstop
as your left hand climbed the bat, your legs
and shoulders squared toward the pitcher.
You could drop...
More Poems about Nature
A Wing and a Prayer
We thought the birds were singing louder. We were almost certain they
were. We spoke of this, when we spoke, if we spoke, on our zoom screens
or in the backyard with our podfolk. Dang, you hear those birds? Don’t
they sound loud?...
Here’s an Ocean Tale
My brother still bites his nails to the quick,
but lately he’s been allowing them to grow.
So much hurt is forgotten with the horizon
as backdrop. It comes down to simple math.
The beach belongs to none of us, regardless
of color, or money....