Through two decades

A dead Live Oak

Stood upright

Perch for families

Of Florida Black Vultures

What sights I’ve seen

On that stage

Young buzzards courting

Males competing for

The belle of the bough

Married couple kissing

Passing food between beaks

Here they are with baby

Showing him how to perch

And search

For newly-made swamp corpses

Other days watching them

Wings outspread

Drying out stormy feathers

One day the mom and dad gone

Baby sat for three days

Finally the smaller one returned

Maybe dad creamed by a car

While cleaning up the road kill

In the middle of city streets

Then the other day

A muffled crash in the swamp

Perch finally fell

And here I go in pursuit of my “art”

Worrying about Water Moccasins

And other snakes

As I wade through the grass

Snap, snap

On smart phone

That does no justice

To the thumbnails of Nature

Suddenly recalling last week

Vulture in my yard

Broken wing

Hopping around

Looking for a way out

I opened the gate and tried shooing him

But he didn’t get it

He did find a pile of tables and plants

Climbed up over the fence

Relieved he escaped

Yet what are the chances

A bird will live safely

With a damaged wing



Life yet death symbols for me

And I recall sitting under

Another Live Oak

Many years ago

And it splitting

For no good reason

Phone ringing, me running

My mother’s voice funereal

My favorite uncle died

The trees never lie

But do I think a tree

Can actually be

A psychopomp?

Birds play that role for me

But would a bird

Lead a bird

To the afterlife

Or does the tree’s soul

Take control?

After all

They were friends for so many years…

FL Black Vulture on my swamp perch

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGES: Live Oak perch fallen in my swamp and FL Black Vulture on the perch in my swamp



  1. Your words and photo do the swamp justice. It’s amazing that so much beauty and sadness exists in the most unlikely of places. You made the swamp beautiful, Clarissa!

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  2. This took me from my immediate association of vultures with death to sudden shock of their absolute lifeness, having families, then back to the association with death in a sudden and altogether right swing of direction. The part where you take us with you in a walk through the swamp feels so real. I have fallen in love with this poem. (side point, ‘belle of the bough’, perfect wordplay!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, thank you, Z! I always felt revolted from even the thought of a vulture until I moved here and got to observe them. They are very smart and family-oriented and in our town we do not have street cleaners so they do a great job of “cleaning up” every morning. As a bit of trivia, had to post a picture of my “wellies” because my FB friends were upset that I walked among the snakes…

      Liked by 1 person

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