Sarah Giragosian

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.


Suppose that—

     despite cartwheeling down

            an updraft of air to the upsurging details

below: (skyscraper,

                             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).