The Poetry of Mary K. O'Melveny

MURMURATIONS




We are about to cross the Mid-Hudson bridge,

steel blue sky above, chilly water below,

when pulsating clouds of birds rise up, twisting

and spinning as if we had entered a desert dust storm.

 

They seek brief comfort on every tree limb,

then scatter out again like wild confetti

tossed into a winter wind.  No one is in charge.

Integrated balance animates them all.

 

I imagine them as starling scat singers,

each vibrating note resounds, rebounds. 

Each airborne thrum and trill, purr and prattle

instantly understood, harmony clear.

 

Grace resonates here like so many jazz notes:

a loose coordination, scales heighten,

then drop to whispers.  Swing.  Bebop. Cool.

Aerial musicians who know where they are going.

 

The flock lingers and hovers above, every turn

and shift in perfect synchrony, each member

intimately linked to the next.  We drive on.

Human frailties more pronounced than ever.

 

                                                                        Poughkeepsie, NY

                                                                        12-10-16

 

 

 

Murmurations is the name given to flocks of starlings flying together in coordinated, whirling, ever-changing  patterns.  Hundreds, even thousands, of these iridescent birds often look like shape-shifting clouds as they sweep across the skies.  The flocks have no leaders and no pre-set plans for their flights.  Instead, scientists believe that each bird communicates with its seven nearest  neighbors as they move as a collective whole. Murmurations often occur in response to the presence of a predator such as a hawk or falcon. 

 

More information about Murmurations can be found at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s

“All About Birds” site (2/21/13) -- birds.cornell.edu. 

 

                           

This poem first appeared in Allegro Poetry Magazine in March, 2017.

 

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