at the crest of an emerald vale, the bird queen arches her neck.
the world rolls off her like tar beads across the puckered hide of a gull.
she shivers, once.
she fingers the silk at the breast of her high-collared shirt feeling the grain of its weave between her thumb and forefinger. She listens to its infintessimally small rustle- a drop in the ocean of white noise created by the wind-tunnels and vorteces that whip the crest.
thistle whistles in rippling hisses.
the still-born storm whispers but doesn’t crackle. winds with no rain. clouds that form self-contained empires of vapor without relunquishing so much as a drop. they whirl toward the horizon in droves.
the queen raises her right hand like a weather vane, palm open to the western horizon.
vast, vast sheets of slate blue, beyond orchards that drip with round fruit in jewel-tones. The trees are arranged in ornate chess-board geometries to rival the finest work of any gardener of the Sun Palace, and their blossoms and buds ornament the scene with the stunning intricacy of a Faberge.
From her aerial perspective, she watches every fawn, every dove, every trout in the stream, every stone’s turn, and every leaf’s fall. She knows the exact ratio of color on every leaf in the orchard as they crisp to brown in the fall, she can recite the precise coordinates of every trout-egg in the brook in spawning season. She knows the favorite resting place of each and every monarch butterfly, and she knows the spirit-name of every fawn as it tumbles new-born from its mothers womb.
As she raises her hand, one bird from every genus and phyllum slowly changes its course in flight toward the top of the ridgeline. They fall in line and circle her raised wrist in procession, whirling, slowly
a twirling bracelet of birds-
turtledoves, bohemian waxwings, black-crowned night herons with scarlet eyeballs- little rose-breasted grosbeaks and lazuli buntings, gathering in homage.
our bird queen, She-
beauty of the valley, doyenne of the Chordata phylum, our prima donna in a feather cloak.
Air kisses her and passes, wordless. Air knows no laws, no bounds, crosses borders without declaration. Like Atilla’s huns, air whips across the valley in innumerabley vast cavalries, then disappears into the wall of fog that rises beyond the orchards and before the sea. The queen worries little over that which is not under her rule. Each air molecule is its own master. She calls none to order but the animal kingdom.
A black Toyota Tacoma is filled with sunflower seeds that glisten with oil. It skids gently as it rides out the curves of Topanga pass, leaving long, slow black marks on the sun-bleached asphalt. Heat mirages glisten in its wake, giving it the illusion of floating through the canyon on a raft of mirrored glass. Two retirees shuffle in their Adidases, emerging at the Backbone Trailhead. A ceramicist carries boxes of bisque porcelain in the passenger seat of her pickup. They clang like bells of hollow bone, their texture somewhere between metallic and earthy. She will paint them with the laurels and bluebirds of the canyon, etching the visage of this landscape onto the clay of the land, unsure of which will outlive the other- the image or the original.
Overcome by a sense of immediate and present beauty, the bird queen collapses at the knees, gathering armfuls of top soil toward her, weeping into the earth itself. Her tears gather on a layer of granite and stream down from the ridgeline in salty rivulets.
Her whirling batallion of bird attendants stop in their motion, and land one by one at her fingertips. They bow their heads with dignity, and acknowledge the gravitas of the queen’s unprecedented expression of feeling. The queen raises her neck, gazes slowly into each of their deep black eyes, and bows her head. She kisses each of their wing-tips, and they fly away again to resume their daily order of business.
our bird queen, She-
beauty of the valley, protector of crest and vale, proud queen of the birds.