what poetry does that we can’t do on our own

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can’t imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.
Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,

even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard, I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

“Starlings in Winter” by Mary Oliver, from Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays. © Beacon Press, 2003.

Now the reason that this speaks to me so dearly is that when I was at the funeral that I mentioned a bit ago, I found myself drawn to a flock of starlings flying overhead.  Perhaps I was drawn to them to avoid the reality on the ground (just perhaps!), but it was also a thing of beauty to behold.  I had wished at the time that I were a composer who could bring the music that they were showing me in their movement.

But, in the mean time, I’ll be the appreciating audience, with the appropriately measured amount of applause.

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