Longing by Julia Cadwallader-Staub

Consider the blackpoll warbler.

She tips the scales
at one ounce
before she migrates, taking off
from the seacoast to our east
flying higher and higher
ascending two or three miles
during her eighty hours of flight
until she lands,
in Tobago,
north of Venezuela
three days older,
and weighing half as much.

She flies over open ocean almost the whole way.

Oh she is not so different from us.
The arc of our lives is a mystery too.
We do not understand,
we cannot see
what guides us on our way:
that longing that pulls us toward light.

Not knowing, we fly onward
hearing the dull roar of the waves below.

Longing

I don’t even know if I would recognize a Blackpoll Warbler, with its tiny elegant markings of black and white and taupe (had to look it up), but this poem certainly made me consider it. How they live in Canada’s boreal forests, how they weigh a scant ounce, how they fly nearly 1800 miles nonstop over the Atlantic Ocean for their fall migration. Is this not astonishing?

These are merely facts, but it takes a poet to put them into words that show us the marvel of how they fly, ascending two or three miles / during her eighty hours of flight before these small miracles of being finally touch down in northern South America, three days older, / and weighing half as much.

What the poet really wants us to understand, I believe, is how The arc of our lives is a mystery too. We too are guided by what we cannot see, that longing that pulls us toward light. Without knowing how or why, we make our way onward, hearing the dull roar of the waves below. After all, she is not so different from us – the astounding miracle of our own lives.

12 thoughts on “Longing by Julia Cadwallader-Staub

  1. I don’t which I love more, the poem itself or your thoughtful insight, both contribute to the simple joy I feel this morning over the astonishing miracle of life. Thank you introducing me to each poem like a new old friend.

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  2. We are under the central fall migration route here in eastern Missouri. Last night over 500,000 birds flew over at an altitude of about 3ooo feet. Imagine. You’d think you could stand under that cloud and hear their wings thrumming thru the dark but I never have heard it. Its predicted that tonight across the United States over 200 million birds will be in flight south. You can see this on the site Birdcast: https://birdcast.info/?_gl=1%2A7urjic%2A_ga%2AMzY2OTE0MzM2LjE2NjIxMzYxMzc.%2A_ga_QR4NVXZ8BM%2AMTY2MzE5MzA2Ni4yLjEuMTY2MzE5MzI2Ny40NS4wLjA.

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  3. I’ve fed them in the forest… their tiny talons gripping my skin as they take seed from my open palm.
    I’d no idea of their journey! So much strength in such a tiny being. Surely we can find some of our own to carry us toward the light.
    As always, thank you, dear Jan. xoxo

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