Autumn in the Arctic,
and over the red tundra streaming,
like a white silk flag of peace,
shredded into 10,000 fragments,
and each fragment like a living kite,
a bird, flown free, flying,
10,000 Snow Geese let go
into the azure, sapphire sky,
and the birds like diamonds
sparkling white between sun and earth.
Flock upon flock, before any men walked
or women wove mats of rushes.
flew from the Arctic to the Mississippi delta,
from Alaska over the blue eye of Crater Lake,
over the stone Kivas of Mesa Verde,
flew in white streams
wing-edges soaked in midnight black
and breasts tinted with the Aurora Borealis,
beak, orange, dipped in sunset:
white, “blue phase” and the ill-named Ross’s---
Snow Geese, all,
carrying feathers full of arctic snow glare,
from Polar bear Country at Hudson’s Bay,
past glistening tributaries of the Missouri
down to Seminole jungles
in the overheated Bayou.
I’ve listened to their HUM,
like the sound of being,
pulsing like one mind in unison with
all existence--- the hum of being,
shared by 10,000, 20,000 birds,
humming in the wetlands,
a huge white raft floating--
And Mount Shasta distant
and all the still mountains listening,
to millennia after millennia of Snow Geese
Humming and dabbling, honking and flying,
each spring and fall,
each cycle of migration like a breath, in and out,
breathing in and out of the lungs of time,
like a life-breath of being humming between
the birds and the seasons and the eons.
One breath humming, through all
the members of the community
like a note that calms all troubles
and silences the movement of time.
White as opals, moon glowing with avian
they fly against the infinite milky way
like satin streams against the ultramarine stars.
They have as much right to the continent
as ancient herds of buffalo, pronghorn
or the once infinite waves of migrating ducks.
As indigenous as corn and milkweed, arctic foxes
and wolverines, cougars and chipmunks:
this continent is theirs,
and we are their guests.
A drop of blood drips
from the breast of a Snow Goose.
White as a messenger of the Arctic sun
white as a silken flag of peace,
white as the moon in an opal sky,
Snow geese like snow flakes fall,
in a rain of bullets,
Snow geese falling through vast American nights,
falling by day from infinite vistas
thousands of Snow Geese falling
bloody into rivers and lakes.
Dead Snow Geese in the Tule reeds,
dead Snow Geese in the ponds and sedges.
The men who decimated the Buffalo and the Pronghorn
now want to kill a million Snow Geese.
Men with guns
want to bloody the memory of ancient migrations,
betray the white breath of the continent
and blast into silence the Hum of Being.
The brilliant white of the sun itself
demands they stop this senseless slaughter.
Somewhere, in the depths of my heart,
millions of white birds are flying home,
free of the malice of murderers
free of the greed of governments.
Somewhere, deep in the depths of my memory
my white wings reach into the Milky Way
and I see the sunrise over the horizon
and the sunrise glistens with a million white birds,
all free, and all flying home with me.
And I hear the gentle Hum of being all around me.