evergreen forest seen from above in aerial perspective
[ This image is in the public domain. ]

Second Encounters

Miles from Rapid City, we met again. Climbed
into a rental car and examined
Lorca so hard, we missed the peryton

swooping in. Trapping our car in
its talons. The creature—half antlers, half
feathers, half grey, half astonishment, rose

over cotton mountains, and our blue rental grew
dim, yet incandescent, to no one
but the crunchy, dirt path. None to witness

us, a nighttime red beryl mine spilling
its guts. Conversation easy, but full. Like so much
world at once on the day we were born. Only three

witnesses then. The first and finest birthday
present: a rush of cicadas and citadels, mangoes
and molasses, giants on the ground, and lilies, distant

milk stars, starlit converging shadows. It was the day
we first cried over an excess of existence.
The peryton pulls us further into the mantle

of sugary lights until our words turn. Frosty wisps
of long dreams, similar, and enduring. This is when
we realize we are airborne. Winged. Now red

like plums, fraught with fragility, frantically reaching
for handles, windows, wheels, for the petals of logic
and the pistils of sanity, for anything at all, for our dear

lives. Even at the second burst of world, we are
unready. Yet, like last time, in gasping for air, we find
it always there, bearing us up, rehearsed

like calligraphy: the inch of walnut grove
on a map. It’s warm up here, above the hats
of the world. Sir, if you must, would you drop

us off on the top of that spacious ponderosa?
We have entered the feathery firmament
of rapture, though afraid, we call this home.

~ after Birthday by Wislawa Szymborka