Reading the Birds

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Written by Gritfish

Reading the Birds

Flash of wing; call from deep in shrub or grass,
Joyous call from dawnlit perch,
Cry from raptor too high overhead to be seen,
Raucous cawing from treetop as we pass by,
Bold presentations of wings and tail, 
Full display of plumage, sheen, pattern and coloration,
Intentional-
So has mankind regarded such signs since ancient times.
Omens for our future, oracles and portents freely given
To help guide us, if we could only understand them.

I saw an osprey as I was crossing the bridge.
It flew on strong downriver wind and soared
Up skyward, just clearing the guardrail to my left,
And my windshield. It veered on the wind and I could
Clearly see the black face mask of the fish hawk,
Hooked bead, black, gray and white markings,
Yellow talons-then it was gone into the fog.

Have you noticed those sentinels along the highway?
Many fence posts have them.
Many roadside snags and tall trees have them.
They often are seen on telephone poles and lampposts.
Sharp-shinned hawks, red-tailed hawks, kites, kestrels and
Cooper's hawks; once I saw a vulture.
These raptors watch mankind rushing by,
Piercing hawkish eyes and sometimes flap away
Seemingly in disdain.

The birds are vanishing.
The threat of a silent spring remains with us.
Forests come down; the birds die.
Marshes and prairies are paved over; the birds die.
Acid rain, toxic pollutants; the birds die.

If there are no birds to read,
What does that portend for mankind?

Gritfish © 1996

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