Varieties of Flight

There, in the air--traceless blue--arena of circuits 
      And saunters, some rise with difficulty

      'While others lift buoyant, tack of tail turned 
            Westward--take wide air under their keel,

And sprint, shoot and sail up to where, in invisible 
      Gyres they revolve tropical or northern,

      Spreading their full breadth to survey the scene, 
            Their prey hidden in land folded and patched;

Others, tail-sure tuck and dive, fall in a single tear, 
      Against a stony silhouette of hill; others

      In wind jibe and yaw, storm-wise, head into 
            Air as prows take the jab and flack of waves--


But some are threaded by thin parachute, line of silk,
      They soar only when bidden, cross a width

      Of draft, but hang when the wind is becalmed 
            And suspended; still others come from deeper

Hues--leap into air as if seeking a higher realm, 
      Where hidden stars crown a miraculous

      Dome of blue--fly on their fins, and their short 
            Leap is the curve of Noah's colored arc:

Still for others, flight is trammeled--rooted, as fires lift 
      Only in sparks, but are held fast to their

      Flames; and sound flies blindly over distance, 
            But cannot renew the force of its thrust;


Sight sweeps and tempers rise; tall grasses bend and 
      Rumors mount; winds wind over, as insects

      Hover, and stars speed free under frail failing 
            Night, while fleet tongues tell their tales-- 

      And Knowledge--poor earth-bound ember--sails,
                  But fails to ignite.

The Multitude

Standing at the edge is the great Multitude.

They inch forward in their rags and hunger.
   Their movement along the ground lifts
   the sound of ancestral migrations.

They are carrying the dark water of need
   in their eyes; they are carrying the first
   vowels, the first consonants,

But their mouths are silent, and watchful.

And the great scavenging wings hang over them;
   the raven eyes hunting among the muteness
   of the winding cortege.

Beside them are the pools filled with the specters
   of famine, civil war, drought—

They become one body, a muscle of need.
   A testament of want.

And night—which is always upon them—rides them
   like the wild horses of the storm-filled plains.

They will inherit the earth only when the final
   pilgrimage is done.

For in this life, the crystal lake and the great sword
   of understanding, raised high, will not show
   them mercy.

Far off, in the West, a light burns brightly. But
   it is not for them.