This is a poem about Christopher Columbus and his first voyage.
The Pull of Birds
Colon, son and grand-son of weavers
rejected that calling but did not
neglect craft (keeping two sets of books).
On his first voyage, landfall receding
(where was Japan?) he sailed on
praying for a miracle to centre him
in that unmarked immensity, as warp to woof.
And suddenly from the north a density
of birds flying south, their autumn migration
intersecting his westward passage.
At such an auspicious conjunction, his charts
he threw out, the flocks drew him south
across the blue fabric of the Atlantic.
Weary mariners buoyed by the miracle
of land soon, of birds flying across the moon.
Birds seeking to outdistance three raptors skimming
the surface of the sea and sending skyward
their doomsday utterance of hawks’ bells
tinkling endlessly. Birds speeding
to make landfall at Guanahan.
from Over the Roofs of the World (Insomniac Press, 2005), © Olive Senior 2005, used by permission of the author and the publisher