Buzzard on the steeple

Here is the church
Here is the steeple
Here sits the buzzard
watching the people.

Most unholy,
it said of the scene
And people dare
to think ME unclean?

Destruction, it said
bowing its head
Will they carry on
’til all are dead?

What’ll be left?
That’s food for thought
So the bird prayed
o’er what we have wrought.

Inspiration: This photo taken by my friend, E. Johnson.
I edited the color to “Noir.”

This is, oddly, my second buzzard post in recent weeks. The first was dedicated to a grieving buzzard who wouldn’t leave his dead mate by the roadside (Carry on). I couldn’t resist using “carry on” again here, connoting the service the buzzard (vulture, actually) provides to the world by eating carrion.

While classified as unclean in the Bible due to its diet making it unsafe for human consumption, the vulture is a mighty agent of cleansing power. Consider: The common turkey vulture is in the condor family Cathartidae, drawn from Greek carthartes, meaning “purifier.” It is the same root for catharsis: purging, purifying, cleansing. The vulture can ingest toxins and bacteria that kill other scavengers. Its head is featherless, easier to clean after its unsanitary work. It holds its wings out wide for the sun to burn away germs.

In some cultures, the bird is considered sacred, especially in those that perform sky burials.

Above all, the vulture has been a powerful symbol since ancient times, most often of life, death, rebirth, protection, and wisdom.

I think about that, looking at this buzzard perched here on the steeple.

Like a bird of pray.


with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge every day in the month of March

8 thoughts on “Buzzard on the steeple

  1. A bird of pray! I love it! And I love the perspective of the “unclean” bird. I work under the shadow of a steeple that looks a lot like this. So when I first saw the picture, I thought, “hey, that’s Zebulon First Baptist’s steeple!” I take pictures of it several times a year when I park and see it in beautiful light or standing boldly against the clouds or fog. The beauty of this piece is riveting. And again, your love of birds shines through so clearly. I am working on sprucing up by bird and butterfly garden with new wildflowers and feeders and will be thinking of you as I do!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, that picture! Oh, those words! You’ve crafted such a beautiful and informative slice here. Your word choice is fabulous. I didn’t realize until not too long ago that buzzards migrate and their return to Maine is an early sign of spring. There’s actually a town in Ohio that celebrates the return of the buzzards–apparently they come in great numbers and always on (or around) the same day.

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  3. Artful verse (I love the ironic challenge to the irony of hypocrisy), and a deep reflection. Don’t we humans often project our own foibles when we characterize animals? I enjoy wordplay, so nice touch at the end.

    This is another post of yours with life-death interplay.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A bird of pray, indeed! Thank you for this carefully crafted poem and backstory. Birds have been a recurring theme of late, so this post really speaks to me. I can see this (along with Carry On) published in a book compiling your nature poems and reflections. A literary delight that exposes life’s truths.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “On the bloody morning after…one tin soldier rides away.” Couldn’t help but have that song echo through my head after I read your poem.

    And now you also have me thinking. Technically, yes, I’d imagine that buzzards WOULD be unclean or bad to eat, especially if they ingest toxins and the like. Yet, we can also hold a reverence for them and the work they do. There’s a metaphor there, one that’s going to be resonating (ok, maybe like those church bells) for quite…some…time…

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Such a deep and thoughtful slice. I love the play on words and your thoughts about the buzzard. I’ve learnt so much too, including the roots of catharsis and why the buzzard’s head is bald.
    What might be running through his head, perched way up there, yes most probably the foolishness of people!

    Liked by 2 people

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