Poetry Sunday: Vultures

Vultures - the necessary birds. They are the Rodney Dangerfields of the bird world. They get no respect, rather like the garbage men who collect our refuse, and yet, without them, the world would be a much nastier and less pleasant place.

I say they get no respect but they have my respect and my admiration. I often watch them in their flights over my yard. They are magnificent fliers.

I think Mary Oliver respects them, too. I like the image of them in her poem - the image of one who takes death and eats it and makes of it a miracle - resurrection.  It's the way that some societies - in India and Tibet, for example - dispose of the remains of their loved ones after death. If you ask me, it's not at all a bad way to leave the Earth. On wings.


by Mary Oliver

Like large dark
butterflies they sweep over
the glades looking
for death,
to eat it,
to make it vanish,
to make of it the miracle:
...Locked into
the blaze of our own bodies
we watch them
wheeling and drifting, we
honor them and we
loathe them,
however wise the doctrine,
however magnificent the cycles,
however ultimately sweet
the huddle of death to fuel
those powerful wings.

Black Vulture soaring over my backyard.


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