Watching Cranes, I Think of Camus

Tonight, our spoonful of uplift
is red-crowned cranes, wings up,
legs down, floating into the DMZ
on the feel-good spot of the news.

It’s almost a sanctuary, the reporter says,
this open, empty land that runs along
the 38th parallel between North
and South Korea for 160 miles.
It’s true,

the cranes have found refuge here,
the land, people-less, littered with mines
and surrounded by troops, left behind
to the birds for the time being.

It’s almost comical how the news report
thinks it needs to shuffle between
an opportunistic nature rushing in
to fill an emptiness, and the vague sense

of some power larger than us
fixing once again what we’ve broken.
I’m no better. I’m dragging up Camus,
who wondered how we could ever be

miserable, so much beauty in the world,
but, also, how we could ever be happy,
so much shit in the world. Yes, Camus
is there, uninvited, in the final montage —

a new day, the morning sun oranging
the snow-dusted marsh, the camera closing in
on a pair of cranes, their necks dipping,
rising, one head bowing to the other until

the pair lift into air as if they are levitating,
then fall, their wings opened like parachutes
as they touch down ever so lightly on the earth
where all that poised firepower waits.

Robert Cording teaches at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts. He is the author of six collections of poems, including, most recently, Walking with Ruskin.