Turkey Buzzards

They've been so long above it all,
         those two petals
so steeped in style they seem to stall
         in the kettle

simmering over the town dump
         or, better still,
the neon-flashed, X-rated rump
         of fresh roadkill

courtesy of the interstate
         that Eisenhower
would overtake in the home straight
         by one horsepower,

the kettle where it all boils down
         to the thick scent
of death, a scent of such renown
         it's given vent

to the idea buzzards can spot
          a deer carcass
a mile away, smelling the rot
          as, once, Marcus

Aurelius wrinkled his nose
        at a gas leak
from the Great Sewer that ran through Rome
        to the Tiber

then went searching out, through the gloam,
          one subscriber
to the other view that the rose,
         full-blown, antique,

its no-frills ruff, the six-foot shrug
         of its swing-wings,
the theologian's and the thug's
         twin triumphings

in a buzzard's shaved head and snood,
          buzz-buzz-buzzy,
its logic in all likelihood
          somewhat fuzzy,

would ever come into focus,
         it ever deign
to dispense its hocus-pocus
         in that same vein

as runs along an inner thigh
          to where, too right,
the buzzard vouchsafes not to shy
          away from shite,

its mission not to give a miss
        to a bête noire,
all roly-poly, full of piss
        and vinegar,

trying rather to get to grips
        with the grommet
of the gut, setting its tinsnips
         to that grommet

in the spray-painted hind's hindgut
          and making a
sweeping, too right, a sweeping cut
          that's so blasé

it's hard to imagine, dear Sis,
          why others shrink
from this sight of a soul in bliss,
           so in the pink

from another month in the red
          of the shambles,
like a rose in over its head
          among brambles,

unflappable in its belief
          it's Ararat
on which the Ark would come to grief,
         abjuring that

Marcus Aurelius humbug
          about what springs
from earth succumbing to the tug
          at its heartstrings,

reported to live past fifty,
          as you yet may,
dear Sis, perhaps growing your hair
          in requital,

though briefly, of whatever tears
           at your vitals, 
learning, perhaps, from the nifty,
           nay thrifty, way

these buzzards are given to stoop
           and take their ease
by letting their time-chastened poop
          fall to their knees

till they're almost as bright with lime
          as their night roost,
their poop containing an enzyme
          that's known to boost

their immune systems, should they prong
           themselves on small
bones in a cerebral cortex,
          at no small cost

to their well-being, sinking fast
          in a deer crypt,
buzzards getting the hang at last
          of being stripped

of their command of the vortex
           while having lost
their common touch, they've been so long
          above it all.
 

Paul Muldoon, "Turkey Buzzards" from Horse Latitudes. Copyright © 2006 by Paul Muldoon.  Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Source: Horse Latitudes (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2006)
More Poems by Paul Muldoon