Birds in Flight

Katherine Case

We stood in dress shoes in the mud,
quiet while the wind pushed at ties,
skirts and the big sentinel tree
at the top of the cemetery's hill
swayed and creaked. Uncle Rick
in his brown funeral suit
stepped forward, opened the cage
and Grandpa's pigeons
flapped awkwardly then rose up
into gradually synchronized flight,
a perfect spiral around the tree
and out over the roadway
and dark forest. Shadows
against white sky, they were
a constellation in motion, mapping
in graceful pointillature the way
to what was no longer their home--
while our heads turned slowly,
chins up, and the image of each bird
exposed itself in negative
in our minds so that birds
in silhouette became a point
we held in common, referred back to
in later years, triangulated against
age and luck and geographical distance,
the widening fractal of a lifetime.