Magical Murmuration

Image source:

Image source:

Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

The Great Scarf of Birds

Ripe apples were caught like red fish in the nets

of their branches. The maples

were colored like apples,

part orange and red, part green.

The elms, already transparent trees,

seemed swaying vases full of sky. The sky

was dramatic with great straggling V's

of geese streaming south, mare's-tails above them;

their trumpeting made us look up from golf.

The course sloped into salt marshes

and this seemed to cause the abundance of birds.

As if out of the Bible

or science fiction,

a cloud appeared, a cloud of dots

like iron filings which a magnet

underneath the paper undulates.

It dartingly darkened in spots,

paled, pulsed, compressed, distended, yet

held an identity firm: a flock

of starlings, as much one thing as a rock.

One will moved above the trees

the liquid and hesitant drift.

Come nearer, it became less marvellous,

more legible, and merely huge.

"I never saw so many birds!" my friend exclaimed;

we returned our eyes to the game.

Later, as Lot's wife must have done,

in a pause of walking, not thinking

of calling down a consequence,

I shifted my bag and looked back.

The rise of the fairway behind us was tinted,

so evenly tinted I might not have noticed

but that at the rim of the delicate shadow

the starlings were thicker and outlined the flock

as an inkstain in drying pronounces its edges.

The gradual rise of green was vastly covered;

I had thought nothing in nature could be so broad but grass.

And as

I watched, one bird,

prompted by accident or will to lead,

ceased resting; and, lifting in a casual billow,

the flock ascended as a lady's scarf,

transparent, of gray, might be twitched

by one corner, drawn upward, and then,

decided against, negligently tossed toward a chair:

dissolving all anxiety,

the southward cloud withdrew into the air.

John Updike