COMMENCEMENT 

Austin Seminary

June 2014

 

The cry lifted my attention

From pavement to rooftop.

 

Beginning in self assertion,

Trailing into doubt,

A question, plaintive, unsure.

A fledgling hawk perched on the cornice,

Toeing the terminus between

Solid structure and empty air.

Reddish breast thrust forward—

Raptoral dignity, evolution’s masterpiece, as yet

Unsupported by confident experience.

 

How long have we watched

From classroom and library window

The mating pair of red-shoulders

Rearing their replacements to stand

Their parents’ post on branch and wing?

How long observed

The slow discipleship of hunt and flight?

Lessons done, the fledgling

Stands on the border between learning and living.

 

Two mockingbirds, grey-coated, nettlesome,

Trill and squawk their challenge:

What right have you to be here?

No match for beak and talon,

Nonetheless they swoop and dive,

Ruffling russet feathers in their attack.

Go back, go back. You are not ready.

Perhaps persuaded, or insecure,

The fledgling neither retreats nor advances.

 

From high atop the chapel steeple

Comes the maternal command.

She does not soar to rescue,

Nor circle in hovering defense,

But only summons up lessons learned,

Promises made. You are ready.

You will be hungry, you will be lonely,

But you are neither empty nor alone.

Go, fly, and remember who you are.

 

The fledgling cocks his head,

Attentive to this last lecture.

Then, deciding at length to rely

On instinct or instruction,

Unfurls majestic wings, dark-shrouded—

As though a black gown

Billowed by a freshening breeze—

And flies, soaring

Where no mocking bird has will or wing to reach.

 

The classroom is empty now.

The lessons are in the wind.