Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Buzzard (After Wallace Stevens)

by Tiff Holland


Black bird that is not a blackbird.
Blackbird, grackle, crow, raven:
these are the black birds.


The tree was dead
and empty.
My mind was empty.


There were three buzzards,
and the shadows of buzzards
and the other birds stayed away.


The dog sniffs the fence line.
The dog watches the buzzards.
I watch the dog;
the dog and the buzzards and I are one.


I prefer the silence of buzzards.
The crows caw, the grackles heckle,
the ravens are unknown to me.
I understand the buzzards.


Shadows climb the fence.
The civilized grass lies down.
Unrecognizable insects land on my paper,
their letter-stroke legs form
archaic languages.


In Texas the buzzards are raptors,
scavengers, vultures, and cousins:
American, turkey.
The hawks are excluded,
true birds of prey.


When I couldn’t leave my chair,
the buzzards left their shadow in the windows.
When I couldn’t leave the couch, they circled the tree.
When I couldn’t walk, they flew;
and when I couldn’t sit, they perched.


They disappear, sometimes for days;
they fly alone, in flocks, in clutches.
What is the multiplicity of the buzzards?


Seven today flying ovoid flightplans
preparing for landing
upon the fingertips
of the upheld hand
of the earth’s dead arm.


They fly into Hinkley, Ohio each spring.
I am from near Hinkley,
have rappelled the boulders,
watched the air,
but these buzzards stay here. It is
winter, but they stay in spring, too.
They hunch their shoulders.
They are complete in stillness.


The clouds have boundaries here.
The creek is dry.
The round rock sits like a top in the river.
Still, things die on the Chisholm trail
along the highway.
Still, the buzzards eat.


I measure the day by the shadows on the fence,
the flight of the buzzards,
their uneasy rest.
There are cedar trees to the east,
live oak.
The buzzards choose to roost in the sun,
death eaters in the open fist of death.

Tiff Holland lives in Round Rock, Texas, with her husband and daughter. Her work has appeared recently in Hobart, SmokeLong Quarterly, and elimae.

Back to Issue Two: Winter 2009