the earth wobbled off-axis,
a spinning top arced ’round the sun,
gave birth to winds that carried
the sound of fire and thunder,
rain and seismic shudders.
Puffs of cumulus born of
sea mist and updrafts, wind-blown urns
for thirsty primeval forests. Desultory
sowing of pod and seed, the destruction
by wildfires, hurricanes, tornados,
ice, snow, flood and drought. Rebirth
rode the fickle winds of change. Until
erectus, habilis and neanderthalis, wind’s sounds
fell on no human ear. But once heard
there was no denying a force to be heeded:
a herald of tidings, bearer of gifts, messenger
that warned of danger. Primitive, at first we mimicked –
blew breath on frozen hands, rubbed sticks, expelled
a whoosh of air to incite sparks for fire.
We began to harness: built the windmills
to pump water, grind wheat and barley, crafted sail
for barks and clippers to explore new lands, trade
goods, to pirate and wage war. Later,
most audacious, the silver projectiles
with sleek wings, faster than stratospheric
winds but without which they plummet
to ground like a wounded sparrow.
Upon the winds, too, we bestowed
the singularity of names:
Sirocco, the dusty Saharan breeze believed
to cause headaches and insomnia. Bearer
of violent squalls at the poles, Willawaw.
Chinook, the “snoweater”.
Harmattan, the trade wind off West Africa
dubbed “the doctor” for its healthful
properties. Blue Norther, Kona,
Maestro and the monsoon Kharif.
Whatever their names
the winds carry language
of many tongues. The dove’s
coo , the rustling leaves
of birch and maple, tides
lapping against shoreline,
the tinkle of wind chimes,
a coyote’s midnight ululations.
And human sounds, too, that rise
on the wind but are easily lost:
the wail of a Darfuri child, starved,
black flies feasting on black skin,
a Shia wife keening –
her husband lost to a vest
of detonated shrapnel,
the shouts for justice
from the disenfranchised,
from those who have lost heart
a thunderous silence, whispers
from the souls of the dead.
The wind has had far to travel,
its sound sibilant, muted,
the ear hard-pressed to hear.