Turkey vulture, buzzard, carrion-eater,
a dark tension soaring on dihedral wings
tipped with light primary feathers like
fingers reaching apart, stretching beyond
what’s possible, taut to nearly splitting.
Linked eyelashes blinking in the sun,
tracing spirals on blue-sky thermals
above the golden mapled ridgeline,
one, two, four, fifteen vultures now
circling not to a kill but to a change
of season, each blackness marked
by a featherless head, purple-red
like an open mouth, a ravening beak
to pick clean the carnal landscape.
The tension is not life and death,
it is that tautness that keeps us
circling miraculously on thin air
like a love poem, like the tenuous
and ethereal mystery of you and me.
No poem, my love, can fly carrying
the weight of cliché vultures massing on
an upswelling wind like death angels.
Look again, watch them glide
with the flick of a feather, see the way
love floats away, just out of reach.
Then came the storm, after a hot,
dry season, a torrent upon the dust.
You could tell me not to say parched land,
not to talk of tempestuousness after
the long summer of our discontent,
but listen to the argument of hot and cold
resolved in sudden winds and sky tears.
*Previously published at Contemporary American Voices, June 2012