On the third hole of the Buffalo Creek Golf Course, a wake of buzzards often circles overhead. Whether that action is a symbolic comment on my golf game or not, I am not sure, but any time I see a turkey vulture or a black vulture, I am reminded of the poem, “To a Buzzard Swinging in Silence.” The hummingbird connection is twofold: Lynn and I just took a trip to AZ to see my mother-in-law, Martha Bodenchuk, and to visit Patagonia’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds…and I wrote a poem in the style of Ms Douglas in response to a hummingbird.
MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS April 7, 1890 – May 14, 1998
Ms Douglas’ “To a Buzzard Swinging in Silence” was published most recently in Florida in Poetry, in 1995.
“To a Buzzard Swinging in Silence”
by Marjory Stoneman Douglas
I never knew how fair a thing
was freedom, till I saw you swing,
Ragged, exultant, black and high,
Against a hollow, windy sky.
You that with such a horrid gait
Lumbers and flops with red, raw pate.
I never knew how beauty grew
From ugliness, until you flew
With soaring, sombre, steady beat
Of wings rough-edged to grip the fleet
Far coursing horses of the sky —
To ride, to ride them gloriously.
Oh, brother buzzard, you whose sin
On earth is to be shackled in
To horror, teach me how to go
Like you, to beauty, sure and slow.
Like you, to slip such carrion ties
And lift and lift to high, clean skies,
Where winds and sun and silence ride,
Like you, oh buzzard, glorified.
In the style of Ms Douglas’ poem,
“To a Hummingbird”
I did not understand how bright a thing
was winged flight, till I viewed your skyward fling,
shimmering, motionless, then darting away,
emerald against the bluest day.
You with an elongated, pointed beak,
amid tubular flowers holding the nectar you seek.
I did not understand how sheer speed
from tiny wings could lead,
with twisting, turning, tattooed tacks
on courses flown on invisible tracks,
to flights of dreams of silver days.
To gaze, to gaze along the slant of heaven’s rays
and find the summit of ambition
in the constant ambrosia-seeking mission.
I must be taught to search like you
for life’s most vibrant enticing hue.
Like you, to taste sensual dessert,
Like you, to move in symphonic concert
and flit and flit in cloudless realms
beneath the gods’ anointed helms
where buds and blooms and aromas waft.
To you, oh hummingbird, my hat is doffed.