Passenger Pigeons

I'd lift my forehead from the book and see
a flock consisting of a billion birds,
like a river in the heavens, three
miles wide, and forty miles in length. My words
never pierced the shadow they cast down.
Born more than eighty years too late, I could
not warn them of the threat of each new town,
of hunters waiting in the underwood.
For hours they were sovereigns to my eyes,
passing over Mercer County. The sun
gilded their feathers in the bloody twilight,
and when they vanished over the horizon
towards Ohio, Michigan, and the night,
what I heard were not coos, only cries.

by Leo Yankevich

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