Someday I Will Visit Hawk Mountain
I will be a real birder and know raptors
by the shape of their wings, the span of them
against wide skies, the browns and grays
of their feathers, the reds and whites like specks
of paint. I will look directly into the sun, point and say,
those are black vultures, those are red-shouldered
hawks. They fly with the thermals, updrafts, barely
moving, glide their bodies along the currents, borrowing
speed from the wind. I will know other raptors,
sharp-shinned hawk, the Cooper’s hawk, the ones
that flap their wings and move their bodies during the day.
The merlins, the peregrine falcons, soaring like bullets
through blue steel, cutting the winds looking for rabbits,
groundhogs that will not live past talons and claws.
I will know the size of their bones, the weight
of their beaks. I will remember the curves, the colors
of their oval, yellow eyes. I will have the measurements,
the data that live inside their bodies like a secret
taunting me to find its guts. Or this is what I tell myself.
But, I am a bad birder. I care little about the exact rate
of a northern goshawk’s flight speed. I do not need
to know how many pounds of food an American kestrel
eats in winter. I have no interest in the feather types
on a turkey vulture. I have looked up and forgotten
these facts again and again and again. They float
out of my mind immediately. What I remember:
my breathless body as I look into the wildness above,
raptors flying, diving, stooping, bodies of light, talismans,
incantations, dust of the gods. Creatures of myth,
they hang in the sky like questions. They promise
nothing, indifferent to everything but death.
Still, still, I catch myself gasping, neck craned up,
follow the circles they build out of sky, reach
for their brutal mystery, the alien spark of more.
“Someday I Will Visit Hawk Mountain” from I Was a Bell by M. Soledad Caballero. Used with permission of the publisher, Red Hen Press. All rights reserved.