1. Chase without Contact
Sure, you can call me
Fast if it makes you feel
Better. Say it
As if it were a bad thing, as if
It weren’t part
Of the attraction.
It’s all right. Thrill
And insult live cheek by jowl
In this field. No ill-will,
No hard feelings. In these urban canyons’
Even a black and white bird stands
Out as a slash of color, and the color
Is speed, is swiftness.
You can call me what you like, look at the dashing
Figure I cut across these rooftops, call me
Me. Call me mimetic, call
Me trouble, call me what
You call what’s just beyond your reach, your fleet
Wings’ each beat—keep calling
Across the shrilling sky. I’m willing To listen.
Call me fast
And never stop calling.
Follow me, we are
Born for this, all-supple, all
Subtle, supremely responsive, rising
Into mist, into a metaphysics only we
Can understand, alas,
Alacrity, but how
Can you miss me
If I never go away?
2. Screaming Party
Odd birds. Nobody knows precisely why
We do these things. We only know that there
Are impulses, and there are rules. We fly
In flocks, big ones, a thousand sometimes, air
Made solid, air made feathered, air made noise,
Made boisterous laughter. Slowing down is not
An option. Yet one certainly enjoys
This fractal billowing, the social knot;
One’s lifted up by kinship. Foraging
Alone is not enough. A critical mass
Of aeronauts, of extroverts, we sing
Badly, but with exuberance, a brass
Ensemble with one mind and infinite
Voices. The sky is vast. We speak for it
3. Chase with Contact
Think fast. Think, think. Think speed, think elegant
Acceleration. Think ascension, think
Celerity, think feathered bullet, sent
From somewhere into somewhere. Who’s content
To settle, to give love unearned? Don’t blink
Or you might miss me. Oh, I’m fast all right,
You think you’ve got me: think again. Think no
Rest for the wicked.This could be a fight
For primacy, or a flirtation. Might
Be both. In either case, though, we both know
We’re thinking the same thing. The nip, the nape,
The aerial tumble and the rush of air
Our lives are. There’s a predetermined shape
To it: now I am yours. Now I escape.
It isn’t you, it’s me. It’s us. Not fair,
But there it is. No one can fly entwined
For long. We are committed to our speed.
We move fast, and think faster. Never mind
What doesn’t matter. Think about it: find
Yourself in seeking me. Find what you need.
4. Courtship Fall
The slowest thing we ever do
is fall. The terminal
velocity we’re sentenced to,
the pure celestial
celerity, means everything —
sex, sleep — must happen on the wing.
How likeably alike we are,
how elegantly limned:
the sailplane wing, the bright-white bar
flashing, the deftly slimmed
cylinder of the breast (cigare
volant), all engineered for far-
fetched speeds. They say if you don’t stand
for something, you will fall
for anything. But we, who land
seldom, and not at all
if we can help it, comprehend
things differently. What’s at the end
of five hundred vertical feet? Not just
the ground. Abandoning
volition is a kind of trust
we’re built for. Anything
worth doing is worth doing right.
Forget the world: fall. Forget flight:
fall. This is passion. Ekstasis.
Absorption. We’re beside
ourselves. Axis, mirror, the bliss
of parity, the wide
sky falling ever upward. We
are one bird, one identity.
But earth impends. It always does.
Part of the thrill to know
that we must separate. It was,
dear mate, great, if not slow,
still thrilling to the quick, a trick
of Tantra, and arithmetic.
5. Silent Dread
The funny thing is, the collective squawk,
the addled flapping, all the loopiest
maneuvers we perform, seem for the world
like mass hysteria. We are a shock
of noise, a panic button of unfurled
flight feathers. In this state, who’d see the jessed
hawk’s shadow cutting closer? Who would know
real danger from imagined? We are swifts,
so named because we travel at such speeds
we’ve been pared down to meet only the needs
of motion. In the dusk, we dine on drifts
of aerial plankton. We’re equipped to go
so long without a roost, our legs and feet
have dwindled to an afterthought. Perhaps
it’s an adaptive impulse, then, that makes
us feel this rash, unbidden urge to beat
a group retreat. The light shifts, and it fakes
us out. And there is silence then, a lapse
in vocalizing that is still a sort
of subtle speech. It is as if we’ve all
had the same thought at once. At once, the chatter
ceases. A rush of panic. And we scatter,
and reconvene elsewhere without one call
to set the spot. Perhaps the sharp report
of silence never correlates with real
peril. Call it irrational, a rush
to judgment. But admit you’ve felt it too:
words dying in your throat, a sudden hush,
a silent dread. We sense, and we construe
collectively. We are the things we feel.
Copyright © Amy Greacan, 2011.
Used with the permission of the author on behalf of Poetry Northwest.