Poetic Words: Five White Birds

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5 Birds by Will Hastings

From today’s Poetry Daily, Not a new trope (birds + poems = love always), but I smiled at “riding on contingency,” which brought to mind birds I saw one day walking along the Hudson, wisecracking sea gulls in particular with their eye on the main chance.


Five White Birds

Having seared the sky, the sun—a brazier—
smolders through the crumbling clouds
upriver; to the east, rich mounds of smoky
vapors, signifying rain tomorrow, drift on.
Five white birds rise suddenly, fanned out,
flushing from a maze of roofs and gardens

well below my windows, topping mushroom-
rounded oak trees and the heady sycamores.
Riding on contingency, the birds with ease
glide upward, bodies turned to movement,
backlit from the final sun rays on the scrim
of sky and thought, as flashes of pure being—

foreseeing, passing, leaving all one ecstasy.
Drawing light against the indigo of evening,
they separate a moment, fingers spreading
from a palm, then close together to compact
their various motions into one white wedge,
which flies along the river now, accentuating

giant cranes, the beaks of freighters moored
among the Harmony Street wharves. I watch
the light reflected on sleek forms, which dip,
then disappear, a note, a point, a nothingness.
The swept effect remains, a smoothing-over
of asperities, a pentimento that refines the day,

its painted infelicities recolored in the silver
twilight. So one is, and is not, what has passed,
windy patterns on deep, loamy grasses, stilled
at dusk, a watermark of images upon the mind,
wings beating for a glassy moment in desire—
a gesture’s meaning as the shaken air resounds.

Catharine Savage Brosman

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