The Turkey Vulture

You are a king of the sky this morning.

Gliding below the blue expanse,
your wide brown wingspan stretched,
and eyes peering downward at the forest,
you circle with most tender heart,
poised to swoop down,
but pledged to take only the dead or frail.

Bronze breast plump and proud,
rounded feathers edged in gold
under heaven’s streaming light,
your wing tips, silver,
steer, while scoping
the brush between the groves
A mere tilt steadies your span.

Later, we meet on a country road,
You are no longer a king,
but a beggar instead,
in my lane pecking carrion,
perched upon the putrid mound;
and now your plumage appears gray,
like the sky before its end.

In a shady tunnel,
under tender branches,
innocent light pokes through,
your dark side suddenly exposed.
You are someone I thought I knew.

Begrudgingly you pull
your featherless pink head
from the hole you have pecked
in the black-striped carcass,
but you hold your place,
and defy me with black eyes.

Dining hour would have been
so much less complicated
had this raccoon exhaled
its last breath in a quiet meadow.

Life is hard enough.
Why must nature torment you
serving your meal
in the middle of the road.

My wheels draw closer,
I will run you over,
You wouldn’t risk death for a meal.
Would you?

Nonchalant in this pointless
game of dare, despite
my tires crushing power,
you eyeball me,
and sparse springy hairs of white
bristle on that pink head
above your puffed breast.

What incongruity!
Is it by design or by trick of nature
that this peculiar head of yours
is suited for the shape of a turkey,
not as a crown for your noble body?

If your tiny pink head
weren’t running the show,
perhaps you wouldn’t be
so desperate to eat meals in the road

But who am I to judge?
Your labor is honorable as mine.

“Move” I holler, “Move”
But you—you just don’t care,

and now it may be too late.
I stomp on the brakes,
and my car screeches to a halt.

You reluctantly flap thrice,
and your gangly wings,
once gilded with gold
as you circled under that blue expanse,
struggle to lift you off
to the side of the road.

Your eyes follow me as I pass,
and we both know that we are all
beggars and kings.



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3 responses on The Turkey Vulture

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