Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

The Rope Swing

We were the shadows
that filled the sky while
ten thousand flying foxes
hung sleeping in the trees.
We raced up the street,
tropical sky and a flash
of the South China Sea’s
brightness squinting our eyes.
Barefoot down the hill,
not thinking once about
bamboo vipers the color
of grass to the rope swing
made (we all imagined) from
the same rope they used
to hang Tojo. Running,
we took our lives in hand,
swung out over the houses
in the loop, imagined
we could soar and in airborne
moments learned to love
the risk, the danger,
the sunny disregard for
the bone-shattering distance
to the rooftops down below,
the all-too brief air in your face
seconds when we could have
just let go,
birds learning to fly—
unschooled and unbound
by our parents’ gravity.


  1. I almost picked a bamboo viper once. Looked just like a long blade of grass. I love the last three lines in particular, and enjoyed the unbridled joy and energy running to that moment.

  2. Wonderful way to take a simple childhood pastime and turn it into something so grand. “Running / we took our lives in hand”, the “flying foxes”, the ending… everything moves together with stunning effect.

    • Thanks, Joseph. The flying foxes bit has been the start of several poems from which I’ve wound up cutting the line. I’m glad it finally found a home where it could survive revisions.

  3. I love this… from the very first lines to the feeling of exuberance and excitement evoked throughout.


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