This poem began with a prompt to write a poem modeled on Amy Gerstler’s “Advice from a Caterpillar.” Nothing directly from the original attempt survived to the final draft. The poem first refused to take that form, then insisted it could be a sonnet. I couldn’t come up with a title until I recalled that Shakespeare mentioned falcons in his plays. A brief search found this:
On Tuesday last,
A falcon, tow’ring in her pride of place,
Was by a mousing owl hawked at and killed.
—Macbeth (II, iv)
I had my title. It only made it better that the line came from the Scottish Play. And it was only right after all that to make the poem a Shakespearean sonnet — and to intentionally break the rhyme scheme to honor those lines about things happening as they shouldn’t.
Sometimes there’s no way to know where a prompt will take you.
On Tuesday Last
The grouse that no longer complain at my imposition scatter.
I see the falcon practicing peregrination, hear the clatter
Of grouse wings as the birds begin to rise, then reconsider.
Her shadow passes across my face in the primary pattern
Of the muscular shiver and surge of her uptilted wings,
Then across the heath. I picture her stooping to rend
One of my huddled red-browed companions, but instead
She banks and covers me in another rippled frond
Of stuttering light-dark-light, then glides off over the hills.
Was it my own shadow that restrained her, prevented a rout?
Or did the grouse settle quickly enough to thwart her will,
To trick the keenest of eyes into an irretrievable moment of doubt?
She’s moved on, whatever the reason, on her lethal and supple wings,
Too regal to sing for her supper, in search of a supper that sings.