Image by Kasra Paydavousi and used with permission.

No Wings to Fly to God

One hand raised to heaven,
one hand grounded toward the earth
we have no wings to fly to God, no wings to fly to God

A winged being, the soul sings away its suffocation
birds breathe is song
a warning sign
we will not be silenced
we will sing

We stop singing—we can’t breathe
police knees on necks, ventilators down throats
crystal virus web the lungs like shattered glass on x-rays
humans can’t breathe
humans won’t sing
we have no wings to fly to God

Lucifer falls to earth—a cone spirals down, down, down
earthquakes, landslides, fires, scorching desert burning sand
Delta, Zeta, Katrina
shape the path for a difficult descent
from which
there are
no wings to fly to God

No hiding holes or heliotropes
You say hell on earth
I say
end of time
the difference:
you will stay here and I will be carried away
What, you ask?
Do I know, that I have no wings to fly to God?

waxwings melt at touch of sun
we spiral down, down, down
in our hubris
and land on our humility

Like birds, we navigate by the stars, the sun
and the earth’s magnetic field
we mimic a hummingbird—600 miles nonstop
we forget to sing
and we

Some like Swifts spend an entire life in flight
from one achievement to the next
Feeding in the air, nesting in the air, mating in the air …
until a drilling rig, a windmill, a PowerStation or a bird of prey
takes us down
And the wings we have are too long to takeoff from a flat surface
we rarely land
and when we do
we find
no matter how swift
these are not the wings to fly to God

Our mistake was to take a globe for a flat surface or a flat surface for a sphere
revolving toy we call home and nothing more
we labor under the illusion that to provide ourselves beyond our needs
that we can live in this place and
take from this place and
destroy this place
forgetting that this place
is what we need

The earth is round, time is round
there are no middle places on a sphere

In lieu of migrating for food we migrate the food
We wait for ships to come in
they stutter and ground—
backed-up by sick sailors and longshoreman
halting supply chains locked to human health

We want to replicate birds
we want to fly
we do not want to grow our own wings
we rely on mechanical contraptions and aerodynamics

Billionaire men build wings to fly away from that which they have destroyed
not all the money in the world
can buy them
wings to fly to God

We are the perfect metaphor of both escape and vision
Metaphoric men with mechanical wings—who carry over, transfer meaning and point to something
that is not itself

the soul’s wings lost, capture is imprisonment in the earthly body
Hobbesian hawks, Rousseauian doves
canaries in a climate crisis coal mine spiraling deeper and deeper downward from the dawn
who will meet the dawn with song?

When things get bad we can’t colonize—
not space
nor the Congo
nor the hollow of Human darkness

Every generation is endowed with a weak Messianic power
Just as every past generation hoped for redemption or resurrection

But the rapture is a rupture
So we build up our defenses
one finger on the nuclear button
we name our forces after the Greek gods
we call our missile Nike because it has wings
but not the kind to fly to God

This will not be a post flood world
our ARK will not contain species in twos and threes that are already lost
These cargo ships cannot contain what we will need in the future
they are only an ARC of the present that curves around the disaster
of anchors piercing deep into an oil line
crude spewing and choking the ocean floor
coating wings with a heavy earth element that will ground the dove
from flying to God

They slip and slide right out of our grasp
we have no grasp
And when we document this world for evidence,
we will paint not the thing,
but the effect it produces

If we put the logic of the visible at the service of the invisible,
then we may just see
Or remain blind

Blind to the fact that birds aren’t real
we can leave all of this
because birds aren’t real
and we can fly …. away

Birds of prey
praying to be taken,
captured and caged
Christ will meet us on Earth 2.0

The raptors will rapture
the rest will be captured
by a government genocide of 12 billion birds, replaced by drones mimicking
pigeons perched on power lines recharging for battle

Is Death really an escape from disaster?
Is your martyrdom our answer?
Ask yourself if your religion does not count on your death to facilitate a lack of concern—
For the environment, for each other?
Is suicide liberation, or a selfish vanishing to purgatory?
Sometimes an elevator moves neither up nor down
and this passivity IS the disaster

The disaster is not Covid, but our reaction to Covid
our passive acceptance of climate change
our passive acceptance of every war we wage
that is the real disaster.

The disaster is forgetfulness …
we forget danger,
we forget pain
we have evolved to survive and to move on and to stop helping
each other
what kind of evolution can this be—
but a wheel that spins on
an access that never goes anywhere
but around
the same stationary sphere

Rapture sees the fires in California as a shining solitude
the void of the sky
… a way to share eternity
… a metaphor for burning down the house

Judgment is the youngest day
a day surpassing all days
Judgment is not reserved for the end of time

This is not the end of the world;
but the end of the world as we know it
a radical rearrangement
so imagine
but know
that even
in our new imagining
we will have to make do with the world we currently inhabit

There is No Earth 2.0
is Magic
until proven science

No Wings To Fly to God

Spoken word/sound 8 min. loop, 2022

Zoologists tell us that birds sing in order not to suffocate. But what of humans in the ensuing years of a respiratory pandemic, increasing pollution, and racially motivated violence that makes it impossible form some people to breathe freely without the police suffocating them mentally and physically? No Wings To Fly to God is the second in my three-part multi-media installation project on climate change and religion. In this piece, I take a bird’s eye view of climate change from the awe-inspiring sky above San Pedro at the port of Los Angeles —a “site/sight” that represents the height of material catastrophe through supply-chain demands run-amok during the pandemic, choked by sailors out with Covid that resulted in a backlog of cargo ships waiting to dock, pollution in their wake, and at least one precarious anchor that lowered into unfamiliar depths and ruptured a deep sea gas line, polluting the ocean and killing its marine life. San Pedro, home to the international bird rescue, the Marine mammal rescue, the Nike missile site, and one of the most violent neighborhoods in the United States, is the perfect place to riff on climate conspiracies and their critics, from the Birds aren’t real movement to the religious idea of the Rapture, to Maurice Blanchot’s Writing of the Disaster. A place where birds become the perfect foil, because, no matter how high they fly, they can never escape the earth—for them there is no rapture, no earth 2.0—making them the perfect metaphor of both being trapped while in flight.


Roxanne Varzi is a writer, artist, filmmaker, playwright, and Full professor of Anthropology and Film and Media Studies at the University of California, Irvine. She held the first Fulbright to Iran since the Revolution, a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, and was the youngest Distinguished Senior Iranian Visiting Fellow at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University. Her writing has been published in The London Review of Books, Le Monde Diplomatique, The Annals of Political and Social Science, Feminist Review, Public Culture, and American Anthropologist. She is the author of Warring Souls: Media, Martyrdom and Youth in post-Revolution Iran (Duke University Press, 2006) and 2016 Gold Medal Award-winning novel Last Scene Underground: An Ethnographic novel of Iran (Stanford University Press). Her film, Plastic Flowers Never Die (2009), is distributed by Documentary Educational Resources and has been shown in festivals all over the world. Her short stories have appeared in the New York Press and Anthropology and Humanism, for which she won a first place short fiction award and appears in three anthologies of Iranian-American writing. She is currently at work on her second play.