Aeronautes saxatalis

White-throated swifts

Ann Seiferle-Valencia



There are all the usual things

to say about

white-throated swifts,

such as: they are elegant

and quick and carve

effortless parabolas

out of the high desert sky,

the white blazes

on their throats like

miniature clouds,

their bodies like split-tailed

boomerangs or arrows.


Or that they make their living

by foraging for insects,

an entire life possibly spent

in flight. Or that they have

adapted unusual feet so that

they can land, ever so briefly,

on the vertical surfaces

upon which they build

their spit-constructed homes.


But every description of

these beautiful birds that I have read

leaves out something essential.

The white-throated

swift is a fleet reminder

that life can be


difficult and effortless.


No description includes

what must be said:

if you have pain or grief,

take it to the desert

and try to hold onto it

as you watch these

birds carve open the sky.


Let your eyes

follow them.

Watch them climb,

the strength in their wings

taking them upwards.

And then, as they

let go and descend

in their perfect arcs,

feel your own body,

solid as always,

still resting on the earth,

becoming lighter

as they wing their

way across

summer clouds,

leaving you

pleasantly empty

of what you were holding,

pointing the way back

to your own easy

wild-winged grace.




Ann Seiferle-Valencia holds a PhD in Anthropology from Harvard University and is currently the Curator of Latin American Art at the Tucson Museum of Art in Tucson. She loves poetry, nature, animals, and black tea.