Issue Fifteen - October 2009

Birds in Flight

By Paul S. Walsh

Darwin really nailed it, didn’t he? Really caught that melody
that matches every lyric in the song of life.
The prime IF-THEN statement buried deep
in the basic program of existence:
Survival is the decision maker-of-us-all,
securing our lineage all the way back
from the Alpha human to the Zygote of the paramecium and
even to the quark itself, hot buzzing little seed from the mother of all bangs
and the only fly in the ointment,
the feather of imbalance on the scales of thought
is found in pondering the question of birds in flight;
those free and joyous angels we envy and emulate
with all our engineering and our alloy dreams come true.

Birds in flight, dumb as posts, forced by evolution
to enjoy their ridiculous ecstasy
and “forced” is the problem word here.
Because the climb of the lichen from the dark sea
to the sun kissed rocks, the development of faculties
and the sprouting of limbs is all in keeping
with the inexorable engine of Darwinian common sense… But birds in flight?
The willful defiance of gravity
to escape the snapping jaws and dissolving, jellied venoms
of rock-born predators might surely prompt the urge to the vertical,
but such a leap of faith becoming flesh and feather
could not happen in the million moments
between the smelling of the prey
and the incisor’s finishing penetration of the meat.

Birds in flight,
inflammatory to our imagination
and mechanical beyond the reason of nature;
felons from the cold evolutionary justice of dog eat dog
for the begetting of a superior dog.

Birds in flight,
The killing-fall of the falcon on the field mouse below,
the horizon vaulting return to the precipice of sky,
the glorious aching in the shoulder and talon
as appetite goes ecstatic over the dinner in hand
and no enemy ever devised can do more than envy
and admire its departure from earthly regulation.

Birds in flight,
should have no right to get away with such murderous mockery,
yet be blessed with such plumage and grace,
we can only sigh and agree without argument
they are beauty itself, symbol of all we strive to be:
a loved and fragile anomaly with a body modeled on spirit
and, in all the heavens, something truly special,
an unreasonable surprise: Birds in flight.