Earth is forbidden to them, water’s forbidden to them,
All air and fire, little owlish ascetics, they outfly storms,
They rush to the pillars of altitude, the thermal fountains.

The escape hatch
just a crack of sky.
Nourished nestlings fix focus there
where bonded pairs torpedo through
wings like scythes
to slice the summer swarms.

Out of Africa they come, piloting
skyways. Along the pull of the North star
to our temperate land, a mapped aerospace
familiar as all the fissures and fractures
in their lofty roosts, where stump-legged fledglings
pledge their faith in flight.

Through the cracks, tantalising breaths
of air stir flight armature, pinions
feathering day by day. A transcendent
switch stirs the nascent birds. Ardently
as athletes, with wing-tip press-ups
they pump muscle and morph ailerons in readiness

for launch. And the first flung flying fall
parachuting earthward then an up-draft catch
and the aeronauts ease into their ethereal element.
In shrill-voiced fly-pasts, they skim clouded vapours
or barely stir the glassy surfaces
of puddle and pond.

Airborne the swifts remain, to mate, to sleep,
to preen. Gliders winging the thousand thousand
season-driven miles.

Epigraph from Anne Stevenson's 'Swifts' - as we lift our spirits and take to the air for my Poetics prompt: Flying

46 thoughts on “Footloose

  1. Wow, Laura, the extended aeroplane metaphor is stunning, with all the jargon and technical terms from the escape hatch to the torpedoing and piloting, flight armature, parachuting and fly-pasts interwoven with bird terminology. I love the phrase ‘Along the pull of the North star’ and the alliterative ’first flung flying fall’.

  2. The decription of the flight details are stunning and glorious Laura. I admire how sharp this is:

    wings like scythes
    to slice the summer swarms.

  3. I always knew swifts were amazing but you’ve given the mechanics of why. They do live their lives in the air and that is a wondrous thing. You’ve created a sky for them to move about with great skill.

    1. These are my favourite summer visitors but had to do a bit of research to write about them – I like your notion of the poem background as sky

      1. And don’t they build their nests without setting foot on the ledge where it’s built too? Fascinating birds and well deserving of a poem.

  4. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. The extent of each description is amazing and impactful. Excellent take on the prompt.

  5. I’m not familiar with Swifts; they sound fascinating, Your bird jargon and wordsmithing are flawless, exciting, informative and thrilling. I wrote on a falcon, but it pales in the shadow of this poem.

  6. what delightful depiction, felt like I was testing my wings with them!

    My favourite poem is about their cousin the swallow … to see them in flight is to know sheer joy!

    1. Thank you for your kind words Kate
      P.s. I too thought they were cousins to swallows and martins but apparently not – swifts are closer to hummingbirds

  7. kaykuala

    And the first flung flying fall
    parachuting earthward then an up-draft catch

    It certainly is such fun to frolic together in the skies with all the freedom very unlike the new normal. Great wordcraft use Laura!


  8. And the first flung flying fall
    parachuting earthward then an up-draft catch

    that’s so perfect – and you catch your breath, and then release. Great poem, Laura. I love swifts, for everything you’ve given us here.

  9. Well, my first thought was “what arrogance to pair this with Stevenson’s amazing poem”, but you really nailed it. A worthy companion.

  10. Great writing! Are you in the UK? I wonder what it would be like for birds to migrate to the US from Africa. Maybe they do? When it comes to birds and migration I can never wrap my head around how far they actually go once or twice a year!

      1. I just started to look at that website and I could probably spend a couple of days. Each area has so many different places to visit to see so many different species of birds. One click leads to a whole other experience.

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