Lew Welch


Song Of The Turkey Buzzard


                                                                                 For Rock Scully                                                                                 who heard it
                                                                                 the first


Praises, Tamalpais,
           Perfect in Wisdom and Beauty,
She of the Wheeling Birds


The rider riddle is easy to ask,
but the answer might surprise you.

How desperately I wanted Cougar
(I, Leo, etc.)
                     brilliant proofs: terrain,
color, food, all
nonsense.   All made up.

They were always there, the
laziest high-flyers, bronze-winged,
the silent ones

"A cunning man always laughs and smiles,
                   even if he's desperately hungry,
while a good bird always flies like a vulture,
even if it is starving."

                                              (Milarepa sang)

Over and over again, that sign:

I hit one once, with a .22
heard the "flak" and a feather flew off, he
flapped his wings just once and
went on sailing. Bronze

(when seen from above)

                                             as I have seen them, all day sitting
                                             on a cliff so steep they
                                             circled below me, in the up-draft
                                             passed so close I could see his


          Praises Tamalpais,
                    Perfect in Wisdom and Beauty,
          She of the Wheeling Birds

       Another time the vision was so clear another saw it, too.
Wet, a hatching bird, the shell of the egg streaked with dry scum,
exhausted, wet, too weak to move the shriveled wings, fierce
sun-heat, sand. Twitching, as with elbows (we all have the same
parts). Beak open, neck stretched, gasping for air. O how we
want to live!

       "Poor little bird," she said, "he'll never make it."

          Praises, Tamalpais,
                    Perfect in Wisdom & Beauty,
          She of the Wheeling Birds

       Even so, I didn't get it for a long long while. It finally came
in a trance, a coma, half in sleep and half in fever-mind. A Turkey
Buzzard, wounded, found by a rock on the mountain. He wanted
to die alone. I had never seen one, wild, so close. When I reached
out, he sidled away, head drooping, as dizzy as I was. I put my
hands on his wing-shoulders and lifted him. He tried, feebly, to
tear at my hands with his beak. He tore my flesh too slightly to
make any difference. Then he tried to heave his great wings. Weak
as he was, I could barely hold him.

       A drunken veterinarian found a festering bullet in his side,
a .22 that slid between the great bronze scales his feathers were.
We removed it and cleansed the wound.

       Finally he ate the rotten gophers I trapped and prepared
for him. Even at first, he drank a lot of water. My dog seemed
frightened of him.

            They smell sweet
                    meat is dry on their talons

            The very opposite of

            bird of re-birth

            meat is rotten meat made
                    sweet again and

            lean, unkillable, wing-locked
                    soarer till he's but a

            speck in the highest sky

            eye finds Feast! on
                    baked concrete


            squashed rabbit ripened:
                    our good cheese

        ( to keep the highways clean, and bother no Being )



Praises Gentle Tamalpais
Perfect in Wisdom and Beauty of the
sweetest water

and the soaring birds

great seas at the feet of thy cliffs


Hear my last Will & Testament:

                          Among my friends there shall always be
                          one with proper instructions
                          for my continuance.

                                      Let no one grieve.
                                      l shall have used it all up
                                      used up every bit of it.

                                      What an extravagance!
                                      What a relief!

                          On a marked rock, following his orders,
                          place my meat.

                                      All care must be taken not to
                                      frighten the natives of this
                                      barbarous land, who

                                      will not let us die, even,
                                      as we wish.

                          With proper ceremony disembowel what I
                          no longer need, that it might more quickly
                          rot and tempt

                          my new form