In the valleys fashioned by volcanic fire, within the still, smoldering lakes their fluted bodies dance and bow like flames touched by breath. The centuries have prepared them for heat so intense that temperature becomes incidental; for waters so caustic they force the feathers to bleed around the birds' globe-like bodies
bodies that attenuate into legs and necks like threads of fire and then, even further, into hundreds of rows of birds, waiting in line to feed as they fan themselves with their own sunsets.
Somewhere between volcanic soda and fresh water lakes, they give birth to their young onto mud flats to keep the eggs and chicks cooler than the sweltering earth one foot below. Perhaps that's what evolution will do until it can imagine something worse than beautiful birds that evolve beyond flight, beyond the ashes of their own bodies.