Sandhill Crane Migration

driving to arrive 
at the jasper-pulaski wildlife area 

an hour before dusk 
on a mid-november day 

crisp with a cold edge 
of crusted frost 

that snuck under our skin 
to feed on our bones

the whole way thinking 
they may not be there 

glancing out the window
every which way 

trying to glimpse something 
even as we turned  

into the parking lot
with the observation tower 

in the distance—  
and there 

in that moment the sky seemed 
startled as it split open 

with flock after flock 
of cranes flying in formation 

gliding out of broken clouds 
circling the marshes before cupping 

their massive wings into parachutes 
to drop to the grasses 

where they remained 
for some time in the chorus 

of their calls until launching 
forth again 

wave after wave
a short rise then fall 

beyond a tall
wall of trees

off limits to us in the final moments 
before dusk fell fully into night  

never did I witness 
their morning ritual

with dawn casting its 
eerie glow over 

the wooded plains 
but somehow 

i still see
10,000 birds rise with the mist 

and pummel the air
into concussed sound

amidst the glorious cacophony 
of their haunting calls 

as they swarm through an atmosphere
now teeming with a glimpse 

of what Earth 
once was   


and may still be

    in the deep