All alone atop a light pole
Above the busy thoroughfare
A smokey gray pigeon is doing its best
To strike an eagle pose
Meaning to convince itself
And those of us speeding by below
That it is no mere plebian scavenger
But a knight of the air
A fierce and intrepid raptor
Of aristocratc lineage
Standing guard over the wide world
As evening comes on.
And when we were young
Didn’t many of us do something
Emulating the bearing
And the manner of speech
The style and the attitudes
Of celebrated ones
Hoping by some sort of sympathetic magic
To become as brilliant and profound
As acclaimed and admired
As our idols?
I know I did.
I did my best to imitate the way
Certain revered poets
Famously carried on,
Which involved a good deal
Of tumultuous behavior,
While I maintained a fervent belief
In my own talent
And waited with confident anticipation
For the heavens to rain greatness
Down upon me
And deathless verse
To begin erupting from my pen.
And now I am seventy-five,
Long past my days of drama and heat,
An enthusiastic observer
Of local comings and goings,
A happy collecter of bits of daily news
From up and down the block,
Alert for little flickers of wild vitality
In the commonplace and everyday,
A neighborhood poet,
Content among the pigeons.
Heron and turtle
The heron walks ever so daintily
Along the half-submerged fallen tree
Being careful not to intrude
Upon the several turtles
Sunning themselves thereon.
But perhaps from being overly cautious
The bird makes a misstep
And bumps one of the lazing amphibians
Off the waterlogged trunk
And into the drink.
Realizing at once the consequence
Of its errant footfall
The heron launches itself up and away
Into the azure afternoon
Far from the opprobrium
Of the dislodged snapper,
While the turtle so rudely evicted
Hauls itself up out of the cold pond
Back to its spot in the sunlight
Sighing and muttering about the travails
A turtle’s life entails
But so very happy to be warm again.
Standing near the tip of the branch
Extending several feet out from its nest
In the dead treetop
The juvenile osprey is in a panic
Crying out urgently and ceaselessly
From its uncertain perch
High above the lake,
Will somebody please do something!
But no parent osprey appears
To offer direction or advice
Or even an encouraging word or two
About this monumental and transformative moment
When a young bird will step into thin air
For the first time
And must master aerodynamics
In a matter of only a few seconds
Before it plunges head first
Into the dark green waters below.
The frantic young osprey does not realize
That this absence of a backup crew
Is the ancient wild’s way of saying
You can do this on your own now, little sister,
No need for further assistance.
But after more long minutes of plaintive pleading
An instant arrives
As it does in all our lives
When there is nothing else to do
But to obey the primeval instructions encoded within
Step lightly off the spindly branch
Into the invisible embrace of sky
And just fly.
Buff Whitman-Bradley’s poetry has been widely published in print and online journals. His latest book is “Crows with Bad Writing.” His podcast, “Poems for the Third Act” (thirdactpoems.podbean.com) features his poems reflecting on aging, memory, and mortality. He lives in northern California with his wife Cynthia.
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