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A Surprise of Birds – Ascension

A Surprise of Birds

Different ways to experience the meaning of Ascension Day. What is Ascension? How does it appear in the world and in the human being? Can the poet describe it.?It’s an Ascension which comes and goes in manifold ways – a poet’s ascension. Yesterday evening I watched as the bud-green fleeces of the trees were sent shimmering by wind, late sunshine, and deep, dark turrets of cloud. It might have been that the wind was a solitary commander, standing still, while the trees themselves sped past. It was Ascension Day in the Christian calendar. I was attracted by the way the birds’ wings were underlit by light as they rose up, as if in one unanimous announcement of surprise. A surprise of birds.

The clouds are also gods; the poet perhaps the one who is assigned the task of naming them. He sees them with his literary gaze, with his mind attuned to perceptions which are also religious experiences. In this way Ascension is reality – a lifting of the brow to be touched by holy forces contained within the phenomena of the world. The gods are within our compass, within our ken, just as they are reflected in the single flash of light on the underside of the birds’ wings.

So in what way is this the Ascension of a Saviour? In a manifold way – the surprise of birds, dreams, delusions, victories of the clouds, shadowbursts of light, fiery wings, deafening green, are all figments of life which rise up in a deeper imagination. The Saviour – if he is in their midst – must be concerned with everything which is deeply-loved on earth: every single flashing wing, each false beginning, all promptings of life which don’t flourish or multiply. They must be carried in his robe, in his Ascent.

This is a very inadequate understanding of Ascension. But it’s a poet’s one. It cares for the naming of things, for the observation of life as it happens. Would you say you can do better with mere concepts? We let the gods back in, with perceptions, with open eyes and ears. But above all we let them in with an open heart. In this way we’re lifted up.


Different ways to experience the meaning of Ascension Day. What is Ascension? How does it appear in the world and in the human being? Can the poet describe it.?


The ancient clouds pour down wisdom in rain –
I heard it in the night and hear it now.
The silence before and silence after
are honest spaces filled with self-knowing –
chaffinches, sparrows and robins are there
releasing their creative minds and thoughts
like philosophers who’ve gleaned life’s one key.
Fruit trees, roses, and clambering ivies
anticipate the genius they’ll display
when two moons, maybe three, have glowed and gone.
And I – I am the man who heard the rain,
who hears it now and understands its weight.

Has the rain heard me – and the ancient clouds?
Do they protect in some secret pocket
my picture as I have been, am, will be?
Is it clouds in my conception or gods?
I love their dark frowns at any event
and each inception of dazzling sunlight
and the brilliance of those scattering birds,
wings flashing with underlit ascension.
Bound forever to my chair of knowing
it helps me to think I’m known too –
and I’ll scan the towering caverns of cloud
for just a glimmer of expressive light.

Now trees speed past while wind itself stands still –
their bud-green fleeces shimmer in the light
as the stationary commander bids.
A deep surprise of birds flaps heavenwards –
hear, again, the music of ascension.
Who can name the turrets of flying cloud
except the one named by them for naming?
I’ll kneel before them, supplicant-poet,
and raise my brow to their extended touch –
they are dreams, gods, delusions, victories:
a conflagration of sunburst shadows,
fiery wings, deafening green – this, my life.


Best wishes, today,
Jay Landar

©Jay Landar 2013. All rights reserved
You are welcome to quote from Light on the Page on the condition that you cite the author and the source: Author: Jay Landar. Source: For other permissions please contact the author.

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2 Responses to “A Surprise of Birds – Ascension”

  1. Brigido Anaya 10. May, 2013 at 8:04 pm #


    You never cease to amaze me with phrases like:

    “Has the rain heard me – and the ancient clouds?”

    And many other ones, there is no point to quote them here.

    Your writing and poetry, are not only beautiful, but they have that mysterious, and mystical quality, that makes your writing to resonate within my heart, and no doubt in to many others.

    Thank You!

  2. Landar 10. May, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    Thank you so much, Brigido, for that lovely comment!

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