“But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. "For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow,
and there is no abiding."
(1 Chronicles 29:14-15)
A black tide of wings crests, recedes: wave
upon wave the starlings flood the expanse overhead. The wild
fluttering cloud dances above my car, speeding
south on the highway, for a moment
and is gone, dancing across brittle tobacco fields, graying
We know we bring nothing to this altar. Our feeble
offerings flicker, dart away like startled birds. Vapor
rising from a frosted plain at dawn. Created
to magnify Magnificence, instead
we reflect only ourselves. We are
The birds are, honestly, a menace. Invasive species
now two million strong, they flood the skies
like a strangely beautiful disease. Some thrill
may be found in the tessellation of a cell dividing,
multiplying—until the cells forget
to stop. The magic
turns shadow; cancer blooms. These thickening clouds—
the birds, the cells—they mimic
tidal flows I ride daily. My son strikes
his brother: anger swells. A friend fails to call
as promised: doubt breaks over me. I glide
waves of pride until they crash, then float motionless
in the trough.
Plagued by locusts, Pharaoh tried to orchestrate
his own obedience. But the buzzing pests, so thick
they veiled the sun, devoured every green leaf, every
berry—until he pleaded, Forgive me. And a west wind
swept the locusts to the sea.
No, there’s no rescue from the swarming cloud,
the mess of my failures, within me. Only
here: in this cornerstone, cleft
and bruised. The divine wound
where I am severed from myself, yet found.
In the brokenness of Another
I am bound up, made whole. As one,
the flock of thousands swoops, dives, disperses.
I stretch one hand
out the car window; my cupped palm fills with air.
(Written by Avery Beckendorf)