Flightless Bird

Bald Eagle State Forest is located in north central Pennsylvania.

Bald Eagle State Forest is located in north central Pennsylvania.

Flightless Bird

By BJ Ward

I know I don’t hold road as sacred

as hawk must hold air,

                                 but driving

through Bald Eagle State Forest

I must have glimpsed a little

                      of that wind religion.




Warblers strum the instruments of their bodies

in rivergrass fresh with snake musk.


They are belting,

          all of them belting,


We are here!

          We are here!

                      Yes this is where we are!




This is what I want to be—

an extension of something here,

                      something now


that sweet something that won’t grasp you

                 or be grasped—that dark,

          sugary,    evolving something.


It’s that air, that road

                    between my ribs.




I know the exact size of my bones

the way hawk knows angle,

circumference, the perfect geometry of be.


It’s the inherent knowledge,

                      the only religion

we can believe in

by praying solely within the cathedrals

of our own bodies.




                                              And who,

after seeing the flowing and dipping,


                                  gliding and gyring,


can argue that hawk

                                  is not an extension

                                                          of air?




The spruce rise like nine thousand steeples

                                              and if I could

                      stop this car

                                       on this road

                                              that never seems to end


I would kneel before this blue altar of sky.

Yes, this is where I am,

the religion I know for now.

It is found in the personal,

the slow revelations that have always

been true for me, the ones I'm just coming to

in this state forest.


in the cracked angling of pines,

a wind stirs up inside me.


BJ Ward

From Jackleg Opera: Collected Poems, 1990 to 2013 by BJ Ward, published by North Atlantic Books, copyright © 2013 by BJ Ward. Reprinted by permission of publisher. BJ Ward is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Jackleg Opera: Collected Poems 1990-2013, which received the Paterson Award for Literary Excellence. His poems have appeared in Poetry, American Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, The New York Times, The Normal School, and The Sun. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and two Distinguished Artist Fellowships from the NJ State Council on the Arts. His website is www.bj-ward.com.

Featured image courtesy Nicholas A. Tonelli / CC

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