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

They might be swallows. Barely to be seen,
they come through what the combine left behind,
dispersed, discreet, below the radar screen
while burnished stubble gives them grain to find;

till suddenly, as though at some behest
we cannot hear but they innately share,
they’ve catapulted up and coalesced
before we know it, mustered in midair

in so close-knit a flock it’s more a swarm.
Swung in a cluster, seized by one intent,
they could enact how scattered inklings form
the mass and movement of an argument,

or even how a poet’s hunt for words
might arouse images at ease in sky.
Too neat a likeness? Defter yet, the birds
will take their bearings, never going high,

and glide, unshackled from similitude,
down to the next field for newer gleaning.
The landscape they blend into, finding food,
is one the restless eye still raids for meaning.