Starlings wheel over stone. This time of year, with the lone
and level sky bare as the ground, even scavengers move on.
Of course the birds don't know this; their instinct to nest
is more compelling than their hunger, and they will not rest
unless they happen on some hollow cactus or rusted chassis
to lay their eggs and build a careful future in. Not much easily
available these days, although these flats were once a grove
wild with wings, and the tall thatched roofs they so love
muscled all the way to the mountains, thickening the plains
with kitchen fires, echoes of moonglow, half-heard strains
of what could pass for birdsong chittering in cribs of light
multitudinous as the stars, as a minstrel's tongue might
put it. Must have been quite a place then. A real destination.
A city to be seen, difficult to picture now; the imagination
staggers between the storybook marble, the gilded rooms,
and this bald nothing. Less than little remains: no tombs,
foundations, fragments of mosaic, stumps, some fossil mark
to measure passing, flags of bone, a code of blemishes, dark
with age and mummified but readable. The ancients named
this blankness tabula rasa. The clean slate. A chance reclaimed
through grace or war to recompose a civilisation’s fate.
Some believe it happened to the Neanderthals: a failed state
miscarried, supplanted, absorbed, reduced to evidence
of absence, the politics of starlings, forensic science.
Others see intent. A reset. It is the best of all possible
worlds; truth and quiet. Certain invasive species become viable.
By appetite or design the vultures soon return to this eden
of eventual plenty. Weeds crack ground in the wet season.
(Revised May 2010)