Jamie Masthay / Home Schooled, Broad Brook, CT

English Teacher: Mr. Antony Yaeger

On the Subject of Immortality:

I want to live the way the vultures do 
Because if you ask anyone for their favorite bird, it will never be the vulture 
(Too uncivilized, the cantankerous bird that cleans up after the dead). 
But I saw one in the yard last Friday, 
When the wind had shaped the world into all hard angles 
Seared in by the radiation of our own cold sun, 
As she landed on the withered grass, talons digging into the dirt like my bare toes; 
Disheveled from the wind, this glass-boned, beetle-eyed bird, 
With rust clinging stubbornly to feathers colored kaleidoscopically brown 
(The turkey vulture is inarguably the plainest of the vultures, 
Without the king vulture’s jewel-tone face paint 
Or the black vulture’s sleek gothic aesthetic). 
And she just looked at me, with her world-worn, wrinkled face; 
There was a strange serenity in that gaze 
And I think it was because she had nothing to prove to me: 
I have seen the vultures working, seen them dig into the world’s debris 
With beaks on a razor’s edge, seen the rain-washed bones they leave behind, 
And I have thought that someday, long after the people of this world are gone, 
The vultures will remain among the gasoline fumes and still-humming fluorescent bulbs 
To sort through the refuse (if they feel so inclined, maybe they’ll keep a piece or two). 
Yet she was not a harbinger, just a bystander in a filemot cloak, 
And when I searched for malevolence in that quiet gaze, I found only curiosity; 
I did not wonder at the wisdom cached in those omniscient old bones, 
But simply looked her in the eye and told her thank you 
And I swear she smiled, perfectly, before she left.