“Five White Birds”

“Having seared the sky, the sun—a brazier—

smolders through the crumbling clouds

upriver; to the east, rich mounds of smoky

vapors, signifying rain tomorrow, drift on.

Five white birds rise suddenly, fanned out,

flushing from a maze of roofs and gardens


well below my windows, topping mushroom-

rounded oak trees and the heady sycamores.

Riding on contingency, the birds with ease

glide upward, bodies turned to movement,

backlit from the final sun rays on the scrim

of sky and thought, as flashes of pure being—


foreseeing, passing, leaving all one ecstasy.

Drawing light against the indigo of evening,

they separate a moment, fingers spreading

from a palm, then close together to compact

their various motions into one white wedge,

which flies along the river now, accentuating


giant cranes, the beaks of freighters moored

among the Harmony Street wharves. I watch

the light reflected on sleek forms, which dip,

then disappear, a note, a point, a nothingness.

The swept effect remains, a smoothing-over

of asperities, a pentimento that refines the day,


its painted infelicities recolored in the silver

twilight. So one is, and is not, what has passed,

windy patterns on deep, loamy grasses, stilled

at dusk, a watermark of images upon the mind,

wings beating for a glassy moment in desire—

a gesture’s meaning as the shaken air resounds.”

–Catharine Savage Brosman, from Under the Pergola

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