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  • Daniel G Opperwall

Fall Swallow

(Image by: Umairkhan9616 [cc])

The swallow had circled the horizon twice already, and not said a word. I stood, just wondering why it would bother to make such an arc, and to begin yet another, without sound. How could it stand that kind of silence, living to see everything, lake and field, the sun beginning to die for the evening, simply to leave it all within--to let it all die at the end of a short life, the memory gone with the little brain in which it was housed? A man could dream wild to see such things, to make a five thousand mile migration, with food and love and home awaiting, home so full and bright as to be on both sides of the journey. A man would write a volume after living such a thing, wouldn't he? Not so with a swallow, home in spring, home in fall, alpha and omega his ever-present sum.

A man's mind is so often full, minute to minute, of words and pronouncements. We live in a dialectical state; our sense of reality is shaped in response to something, or more often someone, whether through rebellion or submission. We are ever seeking to be a particular way, or to meet another particular expectation, all of it framed by others around us, their approval and their scorn, spurring and driving us from this place to the next, this state to the next. As decade rolls into decade we turn around to realize that we have been spending our entire migration (life, that is to say) merely proving a point to someone, real or imagined, to ourselves, real or imagined. The alpha of our lives is seldom Christ, and thus neither will the omega be Him.

And thus some audience is ever on the mind of a writer. To capture is to hold, and upon holding to try and give to those with whom we are ever in conversation. Another person's reception of the intended gift becomes the writer's validation, and rejection his spur to improve. It is not just the writer, either. A man without a pen will instead take endless photographs, share them endlessly. The result, however, is the same--a material scene, a swallow photographed and thus held (or so goes the attempt), given to posterity, the observer (the writer, the photographer) somehow taking the credit for having been the one to observe.

In a poem many years ago I wrote what may still be my best lines. In the piece, I imagined a group of birds sitting on a wire and speaking to me. They were dissatisfied with my attempts to write about them, accused me of being a fool for writing at all, and at the closing of the poem, in their superior tone, they shared this thought with me:

“We do not write the wind / we are it.”

So it goes with swallows, those fluttering and fleeting things filled with the purest and realest apophaticism--being the wind and thus letting it ripple over them never to be held or understood, but in so doing becoming the only creatures to know it as they do. Would that in prayer I could steal away such a moment of being, and so silence whatever audience is within. Yet here I sit, putting letters to a page, my migration once again not a journey from home to home--from Christ, alpha, to Christ, omega--but a halting progression from one goal to the next, some audience ever to be addressed, peace of soul touched just long enough for me to crush it between a keyboard and these fingers that should instead be wings.

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