The hawk on the wire faces away from the road, but looks back at me over his shoulder. That posture is, by now, an icon of the large raptors: the curved neck, the eye and beak somehow more forceful because twisted back toward us. “I will regard you, but not seriously enough to turn my body. I point my glorious beak in your general direction. I may turn toward you but I may not. I can see more of you than you can of me, and I am studying your nostrils for any quiver of fear. I am Hawk.”
The water must have come up high in the drainage ditch – nearly flooding over the blacktop – then froze at the surface, then went back down, fast. As the stream dropped away, the icey surface layer stayed, suspended in mid-air by the weed-stalks. From my car, at slow country speed, I notice the glass sheet hovering mystically above the empty ditch. As if some waterskin had been molted, in place, by the creek, before it slithered into the river.
Four or five deer in the headlights, walking away from the road into the pasture. They all crane necks to glance back toward the light. Hooves lift lightly over corn stubble. A hint of blowing snow in the headlight.
I remember some scene from a Christmas card: deer and other creatures from the wild wander into the frame where the Nativity has for a moment caught their attention, taught them to talk, and lightened their hearts from all fears. They’re in Narnia and the King is finally walking the land.
Memory shifts. I’m a teenager, running through backyards after dark on vacation, in mischief but only slight mischief. That year, that last year when my daily bread simply appeared, by magic, as it always had.
Back to now. The deer look together at me, look away, together, then move together out of frame away into the treeline. I wish for them that life is not sudden death on the highway, or the bullet tearing arteries in mid-chew, but rather heart failure in sleep. Lord, let their hearts just stop in your time, in a dream of clover, an hour before the herd stirs at dawn, and take them one by one to decorate your creche.
Geese form lines in a grey February sky.
The sky is the color of a goose feather.
Pools in the fields are the color of a goose feather.
Last year’s corn is stubbled at the edges of pools.
The geese can read the signs.
From a thousand feet up their lines
etch deep into the cornfield pools.
Starlings watch their own pictograms
form, melt, and re-form toward the name of spring.
Each bird is simple as a child, but the flock is literate and savant, and this is a wondrous thing.
As the sun sets, a cold rain drives in.
Cold, but not too cold for the twitching roots.
Even the stiff firs stretch, and glance up.
At first you force your silence,
then it smothers all your verbs
and burrows to the inner edge of words.
At first you force your silence,
then it ponds the stream of thoughts
like rocking sleeps the child.
At first you force,
then even reaching for a spoon is pianissimo.
So let legato breed legato, then, but note the danger signs:
the thistle’s nod in matin breeze seems like a secret handshake;
you see the clover’s fourth from far across the courtyard;
your own name sounds odd.
You’d best start back toward the surface.
Now God has stripped His cutting garden bare
to color tables for His wedding day.
His bachelor and somber rooms now flare
with you, my dear, now strong and gay.
And what it cost to say
The seep of blood is dried,
The retina, aroused by light
And smoothed, the cicatrix.
It’s good that you have gone away.
Alle, alle, Alleluia.
pray for Pentecost
while geese sleep.