August 20, 2007


“Police said an estimated 200 birds, some of which dropped out of the sky
and pelted passing cars, wound up strewn along the highway about 4 pm.”

                                            —The Washington Post, March 31, 2000

As if a drop in barometric pressure, a hormonal dip
in the brain, some change in magnetic fields, as if

coded by one gene in one cell, one muscle’s electric firing,
the starlings came like snow sliding from roofs, muted brass,

they were stutter and flare. Black armbands stepping in a parade,
mallets drilling, a low rolling drum, they were

sheets snapping, coins clattering, beads slipped
from a string. They came like one hundred horns

and one hundred bells, the roar of the guillotine, they were
a shout from the stands. They were steel taps hammered,

toe and heel, the snap of a dancer’s fan. Hand on face,
knife on wood, without knowledge or forethought, they fell

like double-hungs, a kicked-out keel, and their long slide
was a skid on black ice, cards or pages bridging back.

They cleave. As if they couldn’t see the road curve
or the road rise, the long line of brake-lights flashing

or time the sun or the glare, as if they took
such pleasure in their dive, the green swerve of the world,

they couldn’t come out. Caught in a draft of synapse and nerve,
air shot from the bay, they were horses’ hooves, a squall of wings,

they were a sudden keening, as if they could descend so fully
into being, as if they are what they are, as if they are nothing else.

—Joelle Biele
previously appeared in Gulf Coast last year.

Posted by dwaber at August 20, 2007 01:34 PM