George Ellison

Dark Angels     

With vultures flying is a luxury, a fine art;
not merely a quicker and safer means of
transit from one point to another, but a gift
so free and spontaneous that work becomes
leisure and movement rest. They are not so
much going somewhere, from this perch to
that, as they are abandoning themselves to
the mere pleasure of riding upon the air.

~ John Burroughs, Winter Sunshine (1875)

Buzzards roost in dead trees
wings folded like angels
drawn by Leonardo.

With wings outstretched to dry
in the morning light buzzards
resemble thunderbirds.

Buzzards ascend phoenix-like
circling counterclockwise
from thermal to thermal.

Their days are filled with clouds
and sunlight and long dreams  
of landscapes seen in flight
over which their shadows
trace the contours of a
terrain embedded in
ancestral memory.

Buzzards cannot sing.
Not having a voice box they can
only hiss and growl. But at a high-
elevation overlook when they come
close riding an updraft you will hear
the music in their wings as they slice
through the air. Then they descend
by circling downward until the last
moment when suddenly they hold
their wings high and alight with
well-timed awkward grace.


The Cherokees named these birds "suli"
and assigned them a role in shaping the
earth at the time of creation. The great
ancestral buzzard agreed to soar over the
earth and dry the primeval mud with air
from his wings. Suli did so … but when
he finally arrived back in this region he
was weary and his wing tips touched
down creating deep valleys and swept
up creating great mountains. So much
for plate tectonics.
Elizabeth Ellison
Turkey Vulture



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