The Hawk Inside the Hawk
After his absence summer through early fall
our Cooper’s hawk reappears to perch
on the top branches of the alder.
When a squirrel, unburdened by intelligence
but gifted with tenacity, climbs the alder’s trunk,
the hawk displays.
He is short-winged, feathered white
with fine streaks of brown, sporting orange underparts
that suggest another bird drawn within the larger one.
For days he has scanned for prey,
disguised not as much by foliage as by his stillness.
Now, with two stiff wing beats, he tears
through the cherry tree shivering with birds
and emerges with a rusty-capped tree sparrow.
As with all dilemmas reserved for humans
we are conflicted. We have fattened
this flock all year because we need their songs.
We have listened as they practice
the same sweet warble over and over again.
But a raptor is hard to turn away from.
His is a rougher song, the “kak kak kak”
that comes in three hard syllables.
Fine accompaniment to the season’s
short and darkening days.
Daily, we drove inches from the precipice, down
the rocky single-track road to our rock
house with Etruscan foundation,
the house in which I never saw the millipedes
perpetually moving across our stone floors
because you so quickly swept them out.
That, your first husbandly act. And night
after night we sat outside in the absolute
dark looking at the dim outline of the tufa
cliffs across the ravine. We could hear
the river below, but faintly. Mornings
you made omelets with truffles & shallots
always served with coarse bread.
When we left to walk a hill town or buy
more wine or flowers, or cat food
for the litter of six who visited, we
returned happily to our ancient first home.
Like tail birds that use cobwebs to stitch
the pierced edges of leaves into nests,
we busied ourselves & loved to the absence
of sound and light & lived
in that brief time without disturbance.
Victoria Anderson is a former writing program director at Loyola University Chicago, and received her doctorate in American Literature with a Creative Writing concentration from Binghamton University, New York. She has published three books of poetry: This Country or That (Mid-America Press), Vorticity (MAMMOTH Books), and The Hour Box (Kelsay Books). She has been published in over sixty literary journals, including (b)OINK, Mississippi Review, Gulf Coast, Atlanta Review, AGNI, American Short Fiction, and Berkeley Fiction Review. She is a three-time recipient of the Individual Artist Grant from Illinois Arts Council, and had residencies at Ragdale and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.