Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board

The main reason I chose my house is its location. It’s in a very small village on the fringes of Inverness, so within walking distance are a city, the sea, woods, moors, and farmlands — and that means an explosion of bird diversity. Just about any bird that ever turns up in the northeastern part of the country has a chance of at least flying over my garden.

Birds have great meaning to me, both personally (I’ve been an avid watcher since I was very young) and spiritually; in many ways, I might best be termed a bird shaman. They come to me as messengers, guides, guardians, and simply friends, and one of my longest-standing allies is Raven. It’s no coincidence that I have a huge fondness for the corvids in particular.

Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board

Three times today I’ve watched the raptor circle
Over my garden in a loop made vivid by winter’s
Watery light on his confident wings. I’ve tried not
To think too hard about the endgame that he has
In mind, but he stoops, and it’s gone beyond thought.
Six seconds later, it’s over: There’s a tiny explosion
Of blood and feathers, and what was a sparrow, now is
Dinner. I try again to control what my eye sees and my
Mind knows — that what’s left of the bird is still moving
During the first five bites. Five slashes of a beak designed
Just for this work, and I don’t have to think about it any more.
Nature is beautiful, but its mercy is at best indifferent. I want it
To stop being a poem the moment the raptor begins his dive,
But that doesn’t happen, either. The bird zeroes in, as does
The poet’s compass: Today true north is death.

2017

(photo: Wikipedia)

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