In late afternoon, sunlight
slices between huge gray clouds
turning the valley and hills vibrant.
All colors grow equally intense
as if someone is adjusting a dial.
Each hue threatens to spill out
of the physical shape it possesses:
forest, fields, and houses
becoming a giant tide.
Across the uplands, vanes of geese
populate the air: so many
filling a piece of sky,
the eye can not count them.
Calling hungrily to each other,
they begin a large sweeping circle
for their gradual approach . . .
Flock after flock skim over tree tops,
then descend, glide in, and just before touching down
beat wings-- rowing the air-- finally to settle
into wheat stubble.
Clouds heal together. Light fades.
What seems so vivid drains away.
For the first time, the geese are silent.
Some feed. Others tuck their heads beneath bent wings--
the ancestral messages of distant landmarks
surfacing and sinking in their blood.
This poem first appeared in Pearl, and later was published in Deer Drink the Moon: Poems of Oregon (Ooligan Press, Portland State University).
Used here with the author’s permission.