Evidence of Flight

by Patricia Karamesines
for Brad K.

And there’s a whole life in that, in knowing that the sun is there.
~Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

 Dragonfly by Pearson Scott Foresman public domain

Chancy, is flight, an omen
flutter in the Unsettled Air
from angles where we least
expect a challenge. Invention,
they say, of primordial insects
aspiring to high haven above
raking tooth and claw. Accident,
is flight, of last-chance leaps
to crest battlements of gravity’s
grubbing keep. That such least
creatures found loopholes in
law pillorying them to grim
stations in the food chain, and
in thoraxes more frangible
than flesh composed arias
of survival, buzzing themselves
loose. The miracle, is flight,
when four hundred million years
ago, some humble bug got itself
wings, and with wings, ascension.
Hard thing it may be to admit,
the humankind taking credit
for all triumphs over nature,
but, with flight, some strain
of early dragon-just-turned-fly
choreographed the first steps of
the dance away, escape velocity.

Since then, only passably
a cleverness stirring wonder
still, flying has begun a
plummet to the mundane.
As if it flapped too often in
our faces, as if we batted it
away, knocking askew
primary feathers of its charm.
Flying has taken on airbus
seating humdrum, even as
it dilates time by twinklings.
Who thinks of that, falling
asleep on a New York to
London red-eye. Who wonders,
looking up from an expanse
of midnight sea at the sleeper’s
lights strobing among the time-
worn shimmer. Flying
might even be missed, high
overhead as it often goes.
It might even seem invisible,
eye-bother, the smudge-on-air
that is hummingbird wings.

Male black-chinned hummingbird

But evidence of flight
abounds, confiding all.
Evidence of flight is proof
of sun and Earth, of suites
of creature gadgets we call
“ life.” It seems a cut of
nothing. This beggar shadow
crossing sun-fancy lawn.
That splash of liquid dim
flowing over sand,
unabsorbed, to skitter,
ashen quicksilver, away.
These dishwater eclipses
augur new depths of
presence: intersection of
light’s peregrine ripples that
wing, of their perch, daylight
Earth, and of something
that moves between.

Shadow Hot Air Ballon by Dixonsej public domain

Evidence of flight banks
at right angles up sides
of buildings, skims roofs,
nosedives to sidewalks but
doesn’t crash. I’m meaning
fleeting darkness that aircraft,
clouds, hot air balloons
paint over towns or blot
onto a stretch of road
ahead. On some days,
autumn leaves that float
their shade with them
to the ground. Debris
wind lifts from trash
heaps and spins in
springtime’s vortices
to trail bits of dark
detritus across pastures,
startling the horses.

Geese Flying Past by Tony Hisgett of the U. K.

But mostly, I speak of
birds—ravens, starlings,
geese—breaking the
constancy of a moment’s
shine. I’m thinking, their
shadows shafting through
water to rumble over creek
gravel and cobblestones,
where the cadis fly secrets
itself. Of brief lacunas
in sunbeams birds cause
when they strike them.
Of the black buzzard,
great blue heron, purple
finch, glossy ibis—the dash
of their grey semblances.
Of barn swallows’ airy
cat’s cradles, looping flight
over fingers in a breeze,
peppering the bright acre
below with ingenious figments.
Of eagles, bald or golden,
clouds wheeling ‘round them.

Pigeon flies from a roof by HTO public domain

Just a skiff of flight’s
foreshadow arcing
at the line between
blinkered awareness
and its brink, where
minds without wings
do not like to go. But
if we commit to our
noticing, make rough
estimate, shift our gaze
outside the paragon sun.
If we bring to bear in
looking all names for
things that make them
visible to us, then extend
for one more. If we let
our eyes just—just—
adjust. There it is: that lone
hawk almost higher than we
can see, architect of the
shadow. It comes out of
the sun as if newly forged.
Winter ground below
reflects silver snow light
onto its white breast
feathers and underwings,
made lustrous as pearls.
The bird’s flight scrolls
out in a ribbon of slow turns
within blue eternity, not
a wing in motion, a clock
spring uncoiling in a thermal
of event. It adds not a single
second’s infinitesimal tick,
but you feel the moment
deepen, overflow. Beauty so
incendiary it burns you alive.

Evidence of uncanny
doings we call flight appear
as fleeting shadows.
Around the silhouette
of even one flying thing
rings a corona of sun,
of Earth, of life going a
thousand ways unwitnessed.
Chance glancing then hazard
the shock of full spectrum
looking. It will redeem every
uncertainty, as do all
natural wings square
with sudden flurries
whenever some damn fool
unknots cords tied at the
neck of Aeolus’s ripstop purse
crammed with erratic winds.


©2019 Patricia Karamesines


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