This connection between life and poetry delights me. One of my favorite poems to discuss with groups is Under the Vulture Tree, a poem that I find deeply grateful and spiritual. Just today I read that in Lima, Peru, where there is not always enough resources to pick up trash, so people can create spontaneous trash dumps and if the city does not find them, they spread germs etc. So Lima secured the services of 10 tame vultures equipped with cameras, and when the vultures spot a trash site and have a snack there, the officials go to the trash site and clean it up. The article ended with the sentiment that residents in Lima like vultures, because they recognize that without them, garbage is a problem. Here’s the poem–
Under the Vulture-Tree–By David Bottoms
We have all seen them circling pastures,
have looked up from the mouth of a barn, a pine clearing,
the fences of our own backyards, and have stood
amazed by the one slow wing beat, the endless dihedral drift.
But I had never seen so many so close, hundreds,
every limb of the dead oak feathered black,
and I cut the engine, let the river grab the jon boat
and pull it toward the tree.
The black leaves shined, the pink fruit blossomed
red, ugly as a human heart.
Then, as I passed under their dream, I saw for the first time
its soft countenance, the raw fleshy jowls
wrinkled and generous, like the faces of the very old
who have grown to empathize with everything.
And I drifted away from them, slow, on the pull of the river,
reluctant, looking back at their roost,
calling them what I’d never called them, what they are,
those dwarfed transfiguring angels,
who flock to the side of the poisoned fox, the mud turtle
crushed on the shoulder of the road,
who pray over the leaf-graves of the anonymous lost,
with mercy enough to consume us all and give us wings.
David Bottoms, “Under the Vulture-Tree”