Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!


I have been considering
the ravens, who live
without worrying
and have no bins or barns

And have no reaping machines.
Yet they are fed well—their bodies
sleek, gloved in black silk.
With what a minor tempest

They startle and settle,
yet they are the poets of motion.
Like folk songs their wings wheel
and hover, careless

As falcons, I am their
anxious scribe, listening myself
into their coarse
cries, storing the separate

Notes in small black spaces
at the back of my skull,
God, if I were a bird I think
I would stop worrying!

Enough to wear, to eat. And one
more hour of life is, you say,
not worth the care. So, I’m
a bird. Nested in down.

I think I will float in a
dream of flight all night,
waking at the gold call of the sun
from the world’s lip.


St. Francis could name me
his small sister.
He wasn’t a bird either
but he would know how to fold

His hands around my minor
warmth, then toss me, his arms
splayed, and let the air
catch me easy as feathers.

Watching ravens rise to God,
black steps moving on gold
ladders, gave him enough wonder
it took all his life

To exult in. His praise
escaped often to heaven, his eyes
following. Eventually he himself
learned to fly, lifted by birds.

Luci Shaw