Night Flight (1966)

Imagine the hand could trim those strident feathers
For flying rig such flimsy gear to pierce
An instant of threatening rain with an arrow of geese:
The fingers hooked to the string, hold it humming
Fiddle-taut to the ear, the shoulder surging
To flex the bow to a thought’s prophecy,
And the cosmic archer’s crow’s-foot eyes dispose
Wild wings to tread the darkness southward.
Imagine how in this solitude their beaks
Shout open defiance to the dark sky
Where no star sets course for them—only
The tidal pitiless sun commanding them
Beyond desire or memory towards
An unforeknowable target of repose.
And each a commander astride the creaking silence
Cries out to this pitiful grace of bones
And ragged feathers linked by hook and barb
To a crazy Icarus-venture; and each obedient
Peers unamazed at a highly improbable course
Great-circled in octopus juice on the black air:
For each leader’s cry strikes on their ears
Familiar magic. Therefore, these Atlas necks
Are long-bows strained to a planet’s compulsion:
These birds are archer and arrow, artists
Annihilating will to discover purpose.
These wingbones are structured against the gales
Of Tierra del Fuego; the singing feathers
Are tough enough for that sorrowful region where
The Horn fractures his beak in the South ice.
But they will come to rest short of that passion
For no divined reason, dropping down
Weary some dawn by a lake where wild rice
Whispers to water.