08 July 2009

Herodotus's Great Birds

The great birds come
on air currents
carried in from beyond the world
the people know.

Beaks and talons laden
with rolled brown sticks,
they flock to the cliffs that rise
on the long side
of the river’s bend
packing their nests
with sweet-smelling cinnamon.

The people stockpile hunks of flesh
from dead horses, oxen and ass,
and wait for the first full moon
that follows the fledglings' flight song.

flesh of trees, fledglings see
CAWri caw! CAWricaw! Home.

On the river, opposite the nests,
the people pile all animals amassed
since the spring’s first crescent moon.

The great birds dive into the meat feet first.

Grasping greasy chunks,
they push down on the air
with their wings and rise to their nests
to deposit pieces of beast.

Rising and falling
they fill their nests
until the mud breaks away
from the gray rock wall
sending the nests
sailing to the river below.
The great birds settle
into a frenzied feast
of flesh left on shore,
as the people stretch a hand-knotted net
against cold downstream currents
to collect the floating gift the great birds bring,
coveting the moment they will sip rich wine
through its sweet rolled flesh.

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