My brother had chanted its name for days
until, voilà, it hung
a hundred feet above our astonished faces:
lammergeier, impossible to miss,
the open book of its body so wide
it could be read by the thinnest updrafts,
dark against the clouds —
& us standing by the very rock
that Roland’s sword was said to have split
when he fought the Basques & prepared
a feast for vultures. But this one
with its fully feathered head
& wisp of beard looked nothing like
one of those tonsured carrion-eaters.
We lamented its empty talons,
having fed ourselves on tales
of an expert locksmith
taking the bones one by one up
into the sky & letting them drop
onto some likely rock, there to glean
from the splinters the wine-red
marrow, mother of blood.
We watched it pivot,
rocking in the high wind,
then slide quick as a sword down
that long & boney ridge.
Click on the image to read the other posts in honor of International Vulture Awareness Day and learn why vulture conservation is so vital. Sentence-of-the-day award goes to Charlie at 10,000 Birds:
On the face of it, all this attention for a group of scavenging birds that are fairly universally seen as ugly, quarrelsome, and unkempt, dark reminders of mortality, and definitely not the sort of guests you’d invite to a dinner-party (“We sent the invitations out Mrs Vulture, I know we did — it must just be coincidence that both you and the Hyenas didn’t receive them…”) must seem a little odd (especially to any non-birder who stumbles across IVAD and who had probably assumed that we birders usually celebrate delicacy, beauty or song rather than excrement-coated bags of feathers who spend much of their day with their heads shoved up a rotting corpse).