Friday, March 19, 2010


Now the springtime zephyrs urge us to spread our wings and fly (sometimes in pairs) apart.

Remember the bonechilling autumnal gusts that made us clutch together and don garments?

The Great Scarf of Birds – John Updike

Playing golf on Cape Ann in October,

I saw something to remember.

Ripe apples were caught like red fish in nets

of their branches. The maples

were colored like apples,

part orange and red, part green.

The elms, already transparent trees,

seemed swaying vases full of sky. The sky

was dramatic with great straggling V’s

of geese streaming south, mare’s-tails above them.

Their trumpeting made us look up and around.

The course sloped into salt marshes,

and this seemed to cause the abundance of birds.

As if out of the Bible

or science fiction,

a cloud appeared, a cloud of dots

like iron fillings which a magnet

underneath the paper undulates.

It dartingly darkened in spots,

paled, pulsed, compressed, distended, yet

held an identity firm: a flock

of starlings, as much one thing as a rock.

One will moved above the tress

the liquid and hesitant drift.

Come nearer, it became less marvelous,

more legible, and merely huge.

“I never saw so many birds!” my friend exclaimed.

We returned our eyes to the game.

Later, as Lot’s wife must have done,

in a pause of walking, not thinking

of calling down a consequence,

I lazily looked around.

The rise of the fairway above was tinted,

so evenly tinted I might not have noticed

but that at the rim of the delicate shadow

the starlings were thicker and outlined the flock

as an inkstain in drying pronounces its edges.

The gradual rise of green was vastly covered;

I had thought nothing in nature could be so broad

but grass.

And as

I watched, one bird,

prompted by accident or will to lead,

ceased resting; and, lifting in a casual billow,

the flock ascended as a lady’s scarf,

transparent, of gray, might be twitched

by one corner, drawn upward an then,

decided against, negligently tossed toward a chair:

the southward cloud withdrew into the air.

Long had it been since my heart

Had been lifted as it was by the lifting of that great


1 comment:

ellwort said...

OK - So the vid didn't upload. Try this: