3. Divining the Birds


During December’s last days,
as mild as May, it rained robins.
They fell from the sky in drops,
clustered in our cedars,
then plopped on the ground.

They paused in mid-migration,
feasting on residual mulberries.
Worms had long since turned
underground. The birds stormed
around us, shitting, starving.

By the river, it was reported
a red-tail hawk attacked a great blue,
its talons snagged the heron’s back.
Lingering on late in the season,
the water bird stood meditatively

in the shoals when the hawk,
a stealth bomber, exploded among
its feathers. But in a last arabesque,
the heron swiveled its neck to stab
her enemy’s speckled breast.

At dusk, a million blackbirds flow east,
unfurling against a sky, mauve and gold.
No one bird puts a period to this endless
streaming. Tattered wakes of geese
merge into darkness.

Organs steam along the highways.
Bones are spaced along the shoulders.
Soothsayers abound, divining the remains
on earth’s altars. None dares predict
how much longer hummingbirds
can negotiate the snow.

— Elizabeth Schultz

Having retired from the University of Kansas in 2001, Elizabeth Schultz now balances scholarship on Herman Melville and on the environment with writing essays and poems about the people and places she loves. She has published two critical works on Melville, two collections of poetry, one book of short stories, and published her scholarship and poetry widely.

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