Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ugly and misunderstood

The following piece by David Bottoms gave me a new perspective and appreciation for vultures.

Under the Vulture-Tree
We've all seen them circling pastures,
looked up from the mouth of a barn, a pine clearing,
the fences of our backyards, and 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,
I cut the engine, let the river grab the jon boat
and pull it toward the tree. The black leaves shone,
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.

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.

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