for the vultures of Chattanooga Valley

circling up the rising thermals off the mountain’s ancient slopes,
the vertical frozen march of time’s looming flows, river deltas
hardened into stone ramparts, jagged edged, heating the air overhead
in the patchwork of gray and blue coming and going under the sun,
the vultures, color of the play of dark and light, rise and circle, circle,
metaphor and thing signified, they loop and loop, eyes
wide and bright and focused, the days and nights together flow
into knowledge, wisdom’s course in creatures of carrion,
bound in their gyres to the circle of making and remaking, life—
dying and eating, things final, forever, and always becoming.
to the black old trees they return in silent knowing communion,
unhooded and free, custodians of the dead, unsung and unsinging,
time’s arrow and time’s cycle both they bear, providential care,
they roost over the flooded valley bottom, and watch for winter’s end.