The Science of Swifts

The swifts are writing science in the sky:
They ride the swells and heaves
Of the turbid air above the city,
Scribbling theorems
On the cirrus clouds
Like aerial scriveners.

With shrieks of delight
The little missiles hurtle
Round Leonardo’s courtyard,
Prompting the old polymath
To ponder the miracle of flight.

Galileo, pausing from his telescope,
Watches the geometricians
Carve curves about his tower,
And glimpses the ellipses
Of earth’s journey round the sun.

Darwin, watching from his garden,
Asks how they, alone of birds,
Became non-stop flyers
Who feed, and sleep and mate on the wing,
Drinking falling raindrops.

The swifts are writing science in the sky
While we, the groundlings,
Untroubled by hypotheses,
Feel our spirits spiral upwards
To share the aerialists’
Rapture at being alive.