Ciconia ciconia

Such jazzy arrhythmia, 
                            the white storks' 
Plosive and gorgeous leave-takings suggest 
Oracular utterance where the blurred 
Danube disperses its silts.
                                    Then the red-
Billed, red-legged creatures begin to spiral,
To float among thermals like the souls, wrote
Pythagoras, praising the expansive
Grandeur of black-tipped wings, of dead poets.
Most Eastern cultures would not allow them 
To be struck, not with slung stone or arrow 
Or, later, lead bullet— 
                         birds who have learned, 
While living, to keep their songs to themselves, 
Who return to nests used for centuries, 
Nests built on rooftops, haystacks, telegraph 
Poles, on wooden wagon wheels placed on cold 
Chimneys by peasants who hoped to draw down 
Upon plague-struck villages such winged luck. 

If the body in its failure remains
A nest, if the soul chooses to return…

Yet not one stork has been born in Britain 
Since 1416, the last nest renounced 
When Julian of Norwich, anchoress,
Having exhausted all revelations,
Took earthly dispensation, that final 
Stork assuring, even while vanishing,
"Sin is behovely, but all shall be well."

Copyright © 2011 by Michael Waters. Reprinted from Gospel Night with the permission of BOA Editions.