Bird-Friendly Communities

Meeting the Vulture

A sudden encounter inspires an ode to the Turkey Vulture

Meeting the Vulture, Copyright © 2022 Leslie Friedman

The turkey vulture flew close to my wind-
Shield, toward it, really. Startled, I saw
The fingered wings spread as it dipped closer
And then whisked away. Something dead up there
Ahead. “There must be something dead,” I said
Aloud. Crazy, mixed up turkey vulture
Going the wrong way, toward me instead
Of to fresh road kill spilling blood and guts
On the freeway buffet special for him.
Came so close my right arm came up to shield
My face or brush those rushing wings away.
I am no dessert in steel-glass display;
Too fresh and quick for you, my bird of prey.

No bird great or small could survive the cars.
We are all racing both time and distance,
Whichever comes first. Our selves press ahead
Of our cars, of whatever dead possum,
No longer identifiable cat,
Dog, deer, tire didn’t have a prayer and then, splat.
To my eye, matter no longer conserved.

An archaic entity, the vulture
Has devoured the carrion, cleansed the earth,
Had his way with death for long enough to
Know his own nobility, recognize
His authority, and feel plenty proud.
Saluted by the Pyramids, sailing
On western winds, does he search or find?

Why did he fly my way? Did he bring news?
“Turkey Vulture, you are the Early Bird.
I am not ready for you and you would
Not enjoy me. I’m raw, not ripe,” that’s my
News for him. “Look both ways,” the word from him.
“The volcano of time spews ends and beginnings.
You will learn how time bends around the
Patient vulture: conserving matter,
He’s well fed. Watch where you’re going.
Because I do.”
Don’t know what comes after next after
This. Going. I’m going. I’m not there yet.

Turkey Vulture Photo: Louann Goodrich/Audubon Photography Awards

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