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.