Elisabeth Commanday Swim
1. Even raptors heed the wind
Sky dragons, these vultures reign
over seagrass marshes,
eating smaller winged things.
Alighting as they like on crests of Sabal palms*,
the black birds splash at twilight among choice perches.
Frond fans spray sound like spindrift when their feet lift off.
Spanish moss undulates like tresses
from Southern Live Oak’s canopy crown
—terrestrial mermaid to invisible sea
in whose vast verticality
raptors catch currents and ride, revealing unseen eddies.
Spiral soaring in sync, bird bodies follow beaks.
Each raptor curls on currents
changes in the wind.
Suddenly in obvious effort,
one flaps a moment of asymmetry,
beak pointed unflinchingly toward another’s tail.
The rest of the flock surfs swirling eddies fluently,
in unbroken symmetry.
*Sabal Texana, palm tree native to South Texas
2. Gusty Dirge
Palmetto fans float and sway.
Live Oak branch see-saws up and down.
Oleander nods, bromeliads shiver.
Air ocean overhead sounds a gusty dirge,
tossing dead leaves, dust, detritus,
gargantuan stems of fallen palm fronds.
Wind waves knocking down
street signs and hair styles fan screen door
open and shut, tapping time
until the tune is through or I hook the latch.
Gusty winds, buoy my steps like bird flight.
Cradle and rock me as I drive these two hundred miles
north to the city, following another’s tail lights.
May I not fear asymmetry when
your zealous bellows send me
floating toward the median
before I turn the wheel back again.
Upon arrival when I hear you
crash against my room,
may I not hear a death knell
of churning deluge,
but a lullaby
you hum to me
on rolling tides of leaves.