When I was a little girl, just fifty years ago,
wild geese filled the autumn skies with
harsh cacophonous song: thousands shouting south!
They were calling me out to feel the wild of their ways.
Hundreds of shifting and reshaping V’s quivering,
as the compass needle inside them spoke south, south.
Gathering and going as just they ought, they turned
the earth with their near-winter work, with the tuck
and the stretch and the beat of their wings.

My people used to move with the seasons too,
and my people turned the wheel of the stars
by their chanting and their dancing, by their
telling of what was told to them—that the seasons
are grace and goodness—that once upon a time
there were no seasons, only ice and cold and the
dark and the light, and the great beasts grew thick hair
and my people moved into the caves for eons.

But the ice finally melted and the rivers ran
and the fish jumped in the lakes, and the
trees blossomed and brought out warm fruit
when the days were long. And then leaves fell
and the fruits dried, along with the hunted meat.
And my people made thick dwellings and deep beds
for the time of rest that was just long enough
before the time for sowing, and the time
for tending, and the time for gathering in.

My people’s hearts grew happy inside them,
because they knew what to do when, and they
made great clocks of stone to celebrate the seasons.
They worshiped the clocks with songs and chants
and long processional dances down aisles of trees.
It was not really the stone they worshiped but the stars
and not the stars so much as what ordered the stars
and measured the days and glowed from the stones.

Sometime, at some point, someone forgot to tell
the story; and someone forgot to sing the songs;
and someone forgot the processional steps; and
others forgot to hear, and to worship, and to
turn the stars on the rhythm of their knowing feet.
My people no longer knew when to do what;
twenty-four and seven, they cry more, more, more.
But a cold panic rises with them, as the seasons,
left so long untended, begin to misbehave.

This morning I saw two wobbly V’s as the snow geese
formed and gathered on the ancient route. Twenty-one
there were, and seventeen. Where are the thousand wild voices?
And the quivering shadow of all those wings?
Perhaps they have found a new south or a new way south.
But it was this morning I saw them forming and flying.
Now the night draws down, and from the heavens
fall the fair bright stars.

© Anne Benvenuti 2007
Published in We’Moon Calendar, Mother Tongue Ink: 2010