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From the very top of Grey Butte,
the peaks and canyons of Yosemite
flash around us as they do.

But above, in an ocean of deep-blue sky,
four-five-six dark birds come circling
in airborne play, drifting in the currents of wind.

Why are they up here, so high?
What space is theirs! What spaciousness
beyond the narrow summits of our tethered limbs!

According to St. Thomas Aquinas,
reason takes us so far.
Beyond that, wings.

Photo by nader saremi on Unsplash

Paul J. Willis

Paul Willis has published seven collections of poetry, the most recent of which is Somewhere to Follow (Slant, 2021). He has also recently published a YA Elizabethan time-travel novel, All in a Garden Green (Slant, 2020), and the essay collection To Build a Trail (WordFarm, 2018). He is a professor of English at Westmont College and a former poet laureate of Santa Barbara, California. His website is


  • Joyce Looman Kiel says:

    Thank you Paul. I love where your poems take me.

  • James C Dekker says:

    Thanks much. In a much more sober way than the whacko movie, this lovely poem reminded me of *The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.*

  • Laurie Klein says:

    “flash around us”
    “airborne play”

    My breath caught, then drifted, “untethered.”
    Breathing slower, deeper.
    Thanks, Paul.