For The Gulf

by Jonathan Skinner

Some wings lift skyward
testing the airs, circle round
and wait feeling for
pressure shifts, advancing fronts
spiraling in anti clockwise
dropping rain and cold
night after is migration time
to catch the northerly
& shoot south between teeth
of cyclone meshing anti
cyclone, mixing streams of hot
and cold swooping south /
southeast in waves and swarms

Down the Niagara river they come
across Lake Erie from Long Point or Pelee,
Toronto or Detroit
swarming along the shore
through thickets, wetlands and backyard
corridors, or soaring on high
in bubbles rising from the heated land
some seek the highlands and hemlocks
and many stay out over water, skim low
stop for rest in the marshes

Rolling world’s tumbled giant
universes aching spilt grammar
birds remount the tender night
cyclones churn in cut off masses
frontal depressions ease migraines
lickety splits of swirl horizon
grouped ungrouped, swiftly rising
wilderness touches wingtip crouches
sands delight middle blearing

Flightways overlap breeding grounds leapfrog other grounds
some geese breed or winter here others pass through
thrushes stay high seek cool woodlands
Alleghany Appalachians to deciduous Georgia
many head for the mighty Mississippi basin
from suburb to suburb (watch out for felines)
swamp to swamp and river to river or lake
and cornfield to cornfield
following the refuge archipelago

from Iroquois or Montezuma in New York
to Pennsylvania’s Erie or Hawk Mountain
to Ottawa in Ohio
skip the gauntlet of Kentucky to Tennessee:
Chickasaw, Cross Creeks, Hatchie, Lake Ison, Reelfoot
and down along the Mississippi

stops at Sandhill Crane, Choctaw to the Gulf
& splendid Louisiana (“Pelican State”) coast:
Atchafalaya, Cameron Prairie, Lacassine, Sabine,
Tensas River, Barataria
follow the Ohio & Wabash rivers,
with perhaps a wander on the Tennessee, White or Red
to west or to east, stray over to the Pearl, the Alabama
the Coosa or Tombigbee hard to get lost
on such a straightforward route,
all rivers dump into the same warm Gulf

at 20 or 30,000 ft. on a clear night
follow the beacons, from glow to glow
of cities with their sprawling suburbs:
Buffalo, Erie, Cleveland, Pittsburgh,
Columbus, Cincinnati, Louisville, Nashville,
Memphis, Jackson, Baton Rouge, New Orleans

glean the rich waters from Pensacola Bay
through bays Mobile, Boudreau, Eloi, Black, Crabe, Quarantine,
Grand, Blink, Barataria, Caminada, Terrebonne, Atchafalaya,

East and West Cote Blanche to Vermilion Bay
fish the sounds, preen and wade or prepare to cross
or just fly right over, on into the long crossing
rays of iridescent bird fat, burning across the Gulf