I see this afternoon the after-death-spoiled
flesh-gorged vultures perched
on winter’s skeleton-bare sycamores,
beaks nuzzled under brazen feathers
as they digest their scavenge

then rise heavily to invade our air space,
winged waste disposal systems skilled
navigators of convective lift
soaring swooping circling
our retirement community.

No caws, no shrieks like those of crows or hawks—
they drift in silence shadowing us
with unsated hunger,
beaks hooked downward
feeding on anticipation.

Then up, up high they seem to multiply
exceeding my crude earthbound census
in overarching aerial maneuvers
graceful as squadrons
of dark angels

over the dead weight I bear,
as if unsatisfied by feasting and athirst
to carry me into the great beyond.

Born in Ohio (1933), John N. Miller grew up in Hawai’i (1937-1951). He retired in 1997 from teaching literature and writing at Denison University (Granville, OH), and now lives with his wife Ilse in a retirement community in Lexington, VA.