The Death Spiral
The [American bald eagles’]…cartwheel display or death spiral…is chief among their spectacular courtship rituals…The two soar up to high altitude, lock talons, and tumble and cartwheel toward Earth. They let go before reaching the ground—except when they don’t.
—Patricia Edmonds, National Geographic
Suppose that to marry is to defy death talon to talon,
to promise to learn together the art
of freefalling as mutual deference.
Suppose the law decrees your desire
unruly, your bodies sylphs
or outlaws, but call it sacrifice
or symbiosis, you will be one.
despite cartwheeling down
an updraft of air to the upsurging details
factory, tree, tree
car, car, car—),
you study only the pale
cream moons of her eyes
stricken below their hood,
cincture of her wingspan, wind-riffled,
& the muscly clutch
of her tendons sounding blood.
Suppose that just before pavement
hits your skulls, there is the ripening
of a moment, a toehold in grace,
when you both untangle,
roll out of your death dance,
& fall upwards, in thrall of sky,
backdrop of brambles, scrim of tree-
tops. Suppose catastrophe’s averted
for the moment, but always you’ll be
on the cusp of it. She, the thermals,
& the warming skies are all
you can be sure of. You’ll preen
on the moon if you must.
“The Death Spiral” is from the collection The Death Spiral (Black Lawrence Press, 2020).