775. The Condor, by Loren Eiseley

The great bird moves its feathers on the air
like fingers playing on an instrument,
the instrument of wind; it climbs and scarcely moves
                                while steady thermals push
                                its giant wings still higher till it soars
beyond my sight completely, though it peers
               through strange red eyes
               upon my face below.
Its kind is dying from the earth; its wings
               create a foolish envy among men.
Its shadow knew the mammoth and he passed,
               floated above the sabertooth, now gone,
               saw the first spearmen on the bison's track,
               banked sharply, went its way alone.
Its eyes are larger than its searching brain;
               the creature sees like a satellite,
               but exists within
               an ice-world now dead. This bird cannot
               understand rifles, multiply its eggs,
               one hidden on a cliff face all it has.
Its shadow is now passing from the earth
               just as the mammoth's shadow at high noon.
Something has gone with each of them, the sky
               is out of balance with the tipping poles.
               No huge, tusked beast is marching with the ice,
no aerial shadow tracks the passing years.
               Only below the haze grows deeper still,
               only the buildings edge up through the murk.
Planes fly, and sometimes crash, but no black wing will write
               the end of man, as man's end should be written
               by all the condor wings beneath high heaven.

Source: The Innocent Assassins: Poems

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