Tim Mattamoe: Poetry

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I live in quiet retirement in Chatham County, the gem of the Carolina Central Piedmont. I once taught history in Beaufort County, the pearl of the Carolina Coastal Plain. I am American by birth, Southerner because I cannot forget the past, and Tarheel by the grace of God. I write poems.

Ten Thousand Blackbirds

It sounds something like
a wind blowing through the trees,
snapping twigs, kicking up dry leaves,
when I begin to hear
a surging noise of birds.
At once I see the source
of all the tumult rise up off
the nearby wooded ridge,
a great shifting, flowing veil
of blackbirds, thousands of them,
flying to the upper branches
of the trees outside the house,
filling in the empty spaces
left in autumn’s wake.
The first thick wave of birds
is followed by another
and another, the second
coming in just as the first lifts off
to fly directly over me
where the force of their
collective wings creates
a heavy shudder in the air
that I both hear and feel
as an instant change in pressure,
or a great black sail above my head
fill suddenly with wind.

In another, distant life
I saw clouds of blackbirds
much like these
sweep across the evening sky
and shift from stubbled field
to stubbled field
to glean the leavings
that the combines left behind.
But here there are no
endless fields of grain
that I connected to those birds.
Here, from up above,
are mostly woods
with openings for towns
and roads and orchards,
or meadows for growing hay
or grazing stock.

There is a mystery behind
these edgy gatherings of birds.
What, together, do they
want or need to gain
from their frantic meetings,
if not simply ample food?
Warmth? Companionship?
Some kind of safety
in the face of predators
or hard approaching
winter storms? Or maybe,
if just in my imagining,
these are rituals in which
each single, darting
airborne presence
seeks to coalesce
and draw the whole
into a secret realm
of dark transcendence
meant only for such
fleeting instances
as birds.