“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