Birds in Flight

by David Whippman

“Free as a bird,” that’s what we always say,
“It’s time to spread my wings and fly away,
I have to find myself, fly high and free!”
Birds are the metaphors of liberty.
They seem free, for they have the gift of flight,
to move in three dimensions as they might,
gliding untrammeled: all the classic scenes
in paintings, poems and the movie screens!
The seascapes where they soar with mournful cries
over the ocean, in the open skies.
It isn’t really so: their path is mapped
and predetermined; instinct has them trapped.
Just like remote control, some unseen force
will keep them moving on just one set course.
Aren’t we the same? We head back to a nest,
To boundaries that someone else deems best.
We cannot think for long outside the box;
we move with others in conforming flocks.



Birds in Flight

by Evan Mantyk

A bird’s heart beats about ten times the speed
Of man’s. He reads the signs that supersede
What we perceive; he can predict a storm,
Presage an earthquake’s shocks, and as a norm
Can navigate without a GPS.
And in old myths? A bird can curse or bless.
Two eagles’ flight foretells the Odyssey
Is near its end and one day faithfully
The hero will bring long due punishment.
In ancient China, phoenix sightings meant
A sage was born on Earth, a golden age
Had come. A bird may fit within a cage
Indeed, but on the clouds his spirit flies.
Though one may sink, ten thousand more will rise
Connected by the innate traits of race
Into a single mind transcending space.
And thus he can deliver omens’ news,
Which share so freely with us Heaven’s views.



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34 Responses

  1. Joe Tessitore

    Two good poems with such remarkably different conclusions, at a time when our future is so very much in doubt!

  2. Cynthia Erlandson

    Beautiful poems, and they make a beautiful pairing! David’s contrast between the freedom the birds represent, and their predestined paths, is fascinating; and Evan’s seems to continue the thought into the realm of the birds announcing the predestination of human events.

  3. James Sale

    Very enjoyable and thought-provoking poems. I am reminded of the poetry contests between Leigh Hunt, Shelley and Keats on common themes, so the question is: was this a deliberate set-up between them or did Evan, as editor, adventitiously realise that David has submitted a poem with the same title as himself and so proceeded as we find?

    • Dave Whippman

      Thanks for your feedback James. Evan suggested that he post his work alongside mine as a kind of alternative view. I was only too happy to agree, and I think the pairing works.

      • James Sale

        Thanks David – opportunistic then (how Evan in the Zen moment)! – and it works very well indeed. Not for the next Zoom live poets, which already has a theme, but this could be an idea to use for some future zoom performance in which two identical titles/topics are read and discussed by way of contrast – like it!

  4. Peter Hartley

    Some fascinating pieces of avian fact and lore in both poems from which we learn that birds are not quite as free as we think they are.Their GPS systems really are astounding. The Arctic tern will fly nearly twelve thousand miles to its nest site each year from one pole to the other, to occupy the same few featureless square inches of ground to nest on. These two poems help to increase our knowledge of bird life in a medium they make easy and delightful to absorb

    • David Whippman

      Thanks Peter. I never thought of myself as an ornithologist, but I’ll happily add it to my CV!


    These are both wonderful and thought-provoking poems with such divergent points of view! Both soar with unexpected and far-ranging imagery — from GPS and movie screens to Homer and ancient China. In a sense, these poems are mirror images of each other. Mr. Whippman’s poem brings the mythology of avian freedom down to earth, so to speak. While Mr. Mantyk’s romanticizes our avian friends into a transcendent role. I expect that the truth of birds lies somewhere in between, which makes the pairing of these poems indispensable. Gentlemen, thank you both for a very fine, memorable read.

    • David Whippman

      Thanks Brian, glad you enjoyed both pieces. And you are probably right: the truth is usually found at a midway point.

  6. Sally Cook

    I once heard a theory that dinosaurs, rather than becoming extinct, just got smaller and smaller and ended up birds.
    No idea if this is fact or fiction but surely it speaks to the versatility of the avian kingdom.
    So many kinds of birds, so much myth atrtributed to them.
    Thanks, Evan and David, for adding so much more to what I already had observed and opined, and in such a graceful way.
    The bird might be the perfect mascot for a poet !

  7. Norma Okun

    Birds honoured. Thank you
    I would only add that birds are the best Mom. Feed their young and let them go.

  8. Paul Freeman

    Lots of food for thought here. The philosophical followed by the mythical.

    I recall reading that one famous fellow from classical times had a tortoise dropped on his head by an eagle mistaking his bald head for a rock. And I do believe when I read ‘I, Claudius’ all those years ago that an eagle dropped a wolf cub into Claudius’s lap – a very auspicious omen.

    Thanks for the reads.

    • David Whippman

      Thank you Paul. The tortoise guy was a playwright – Sophocles, I believe. Sounds comical, but apparently it killed him.

      • Peter Hartley

        Æschylus, but you’re not too far out with Sophocles

  9. David Paul Behrens

    I love birds and I love these poems. They remind me of an old song from the early 1960’s by Bob Dylan, called Ballad in Plain D. The final verse goes like this:

    Ah, my friends from the prison, they ask unto me
    “How good, how good does it feel to be free?”
    And I answer them most mysteriously
    “Are birds free from the chains of the skyway?”

    • David Whippman

      Thank you David. There’s also a song about Robert Stroud, better known as the Birdman of Alcatraz, with the similar theme of equating birds with liberty.

  10. Sandi Christie

    Two similar but different well written thought-provoking poems to start the week— how wonderful is that? While I would rather stay quiet on the sidelines, Mr. Whippman’s poem has my mind flying and reminiscing over “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”, a worthy read. “We cannot think for long outside the box; we move with others in conforming flocks.” So true are these words! Are we like these remote-controlled birds? Are we mindless zombies following the flock without ever thinking if what we think or do makes any sense at all? We need not question our politics, religions, news media, or our social circles, we simply need to follow the crowd. If everyone else believes it to be so, it must be true- right?

    This poem also brings up the question- do we have any choice in what we think, or are we pre-programmed to think a certain way? Like Shakespeare said: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players;”- are we given a script to play out in a grand theatrical performance? Can the script be changed? Is there an alternate script? Is there a script for the body and one for the spirit, if the Spirit can be found and listened to? So much to ponder on a Monday morning!

    Evan’s line: “A bird may fit within a cage indeed, but on the clouds his spirit flies”, also reminds me of Bach’s “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” story—a breaking free from the chains in Plato’s cave and flying free above the battlefield, transcending the shadows of bodily limitations. “Connected by the innate traits of race into a single mind transcending space” alludes to the nature of one mind united with God, which very much speaks to me even if that is not how he meant it. A truly great line! Thank you both again for the thought-provoking inspirational poetry.

    • David Whippman

      And thank you, Sandi, for such a detailed and thoughtful comment.

  11. Yael

    These are both perfectly delightful and thought-provoking poems; a nice pair indeed, thank you!

  12. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    It is an honour to read these two magnificent poems and the engaging comments beneath. I, like others, appreciate the unique qualities of two poems written on the same subject. Are birds driven by instinct alone… or is there a spiritual aspect to their existence? Oh, how I ponder over the beauty and wonder of these avian marvels. I am pleased to see I’m in good company and thank David and Evan for bringing all these fine-feathered musings to the fore with poetic finesse. What a treat!

    • David Whippman

      Many thanks Susan, glad you enjoyed both pieces. And I know what you mean about a spiritual aspect; it’s difficult to think of many animals, including birds, in a purely material way. Or is that just a kind of anthropomorphism?

  13. Roy E. Peterson

    These two thought-provoking poems on the subject of birds are fascinating in their divergent depictions. Long have I been fascinated by the flight of eagles and the Chinese/Asian concept of the Phoenix/Firebird rising from the ashes. I remember in the story of Noah and the flood that Noah sent out a raven and a dove from the ark and when they did not return, he concluded they must have found dry land. Carrier pigeons with their ability to fly from point to point have also fascinated me. These two poems elicit thoughts and memories that are a treat. Thank you, David and Evan, for the flying lessons.

  14. David Watt

    This fine pair of poems on the subject of birds soar that much higher for being read together. Coincidentally, I just finished writing an avian poem before seeing these gems.

  15. Mike Bryant

    I love the poems along with the different views of birds. I haven’t really thought about birds for most of my life. Susan turned me on to birds. I now know that all of nature is more spiritual than material. Thanks again.


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