R.S. Williams

All I want is to get the words right.

Tag: Birds

In the Turn Lane

For a week, the oily-matte black carcass lay undisturbed in the middle of the turn lane. On either side, three more lanes of car and critter hurried past the spiky scramble of feathers. Hard freeze, hard thaw, hard rain—nothing would touch it.

In rural west Georgia, where I grew up, dead animals in the road are a fact of life. With these dead animals comes nature’s clean-up crew. They make quick work of most everything: flattened and ruptured squirrels, opossums, armadillos. Dogs, cats, coyotes, cattle. Unfortunate copperheads, errant guinea hens, eerily headless eight-point bucks, and even the occasional feral hog.

Every creature eats. Every creature is eaten. In the circle of life, flesh never goes to waste.

But all that happens outside of town, in the country. Here, a hundred yards inside the city limits, was not where I expected to see broken, crumpled wings. Here, in the turn lane, was not where I expected to see frozen talons devastated against asphalt.

Like many of us, it sought the company of others, working best in groups. Like many of us, it flew into fate unaccompanied, at a time and in a place it neither expected nor desired.

Only death will eat a vulture.

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Friday Photo: 6/23/17

“Something (Not) Borrowed”
LaGrange, Georgia – 23 July 2015

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Friday Photo: 1/13/17

“Willow (Barred Owl), in Flight”
| Pine Mountain, Georgia – 27 December 2016

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Wednesday Photo: 11/30/2016


“Autumn Feathers on Green Enamel”
Heard County, Georgia – 29 October 2016

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Wednesday Photo: 10/19/16


“Feathers with Milky Quartz, No. 1”
Heard County, Georgia – 9 October 2016

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Aren’t we all.

As usual, I’d let the Johnson grass in the back yard grow too high to mow. Instead, Mom and I chopped it into submission with machetes. It was hard, piss-you-off-quick work, what with the sweat running in our eyes and the sweat bees stinging us faster than we could shoo them away. Plus I hated the late September slant of sun. It made four-thirty in the afternoon feel like the end of the world.

The sudden whonnk-whonnk-whonnk startled me. In the washed-out blue distance, there they were—their neat, strict V flawless as always. Canada geese, of course, here taking jobs from American geese and wrecking the avian economy. They swagger around the backwater as if they own the red clay banks, hissing to rival the biggest cottonmouths, crapping glossy greenish-black all over the picnic area.

Arrogant, rude, noisy, messy—and stunningly beautiful, with those graceful black velvet necks and elegant white chinstraps. No charcoal, no gouache could duplicate their shading. No couturier could duplicate the white contrast seam binding along their smoky flight feathers. Subtle gray-brown scallops on their ivory bellies provide relief between the stark palettes above and below.

At the slightest threat to nest or wounded mate, WHHHHFFFFF! Beauty takes near-noiseless flight. A dozen sixteen-pound waterproof feathered mortars bear down shrieking and scare the bejesus out of combat-hardened Army Rangers jogging by the lake.

They were flying north.
In September.

“Dumbasses,” I muttered. “They’re going the wrong way.”

Mom pitched another clump of grass over the fence. “Aren’t we all.”

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Hillside Monday: 1/11/16


People seem surprised at how many species of wild birds make their home in Hillside’s trees. Unlike some neighborhoods, Hillside features relatively large wooded areas full of mature oaks, pines, hickories, and poplars. These areas—a few of which cover entire city blocks—are perfect for owls, hawks, and woodpeckers, to name just a few birds I’ve seen around here.

I spent a delightful hour browsing The Feather Atlas, courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. I’m still not sure about this feather. It could be from a nighthawk. Or a downy woodpecker. Or a red-bellied woodpecker. Or a yellow-bellied sapsucker. I need more coffee.

“This Feather Is Mocking Me”
LaGrange, Georgia – 17 November 2015

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)



At water’s edge, my Fisher King, you stand
flightless, crippled. Slender faithful guard
of fen, of heart, of glorious
sooty blushing riotous raiment—
crumpled, bruised, proud.

Your birthright: motionless swift grace.
Your feathers: hopeless sacred spikes.
Your offering: flawless imperfect blessing.

Demolished and whole,
fractured and healed,
shattered and safe—O great God,
that every hurt could mend,
that you could fly.

Fly from me, beautiful broken one.
Take my breath with you.

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

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