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Sharp-Shin


ISSUE:  Summer 1985
He broke past the corners
Of our eyes before we could see, before
We could quite catch
Sight of him already beyond
The fence and the next yard and back
Again in full flight, the sharp-shinned
Hawk, an amber and slate streak
Through the morning air after
A blur of a pine siskin, zigzagging
But (like our eyes) not quite touching it, not quite
Taking it in a swirling S-curve
Through vine maple up in a flare
Of tail stripes and dark coverts
To a hemlock branch to perch
Dead still, his claws empty.

Still breathing, we waited. The towhees,
The song sparrows, the juncos
Huddled in thickets, and the quick yellow-
And-gray-streaked siskins flocked
Quivering in a fir tree,
Waiting. The whole broad yard
Fell silent, and nothing moved
Anywhere, not even the one cloud.

He waited too, his breast the shade
Of dead leaves, his blue-gray wings
Folded like bark. The dimmed firecoals
Of his eyes held all of us
There, slow minute
After minute, where we were.

Finally, gradually, one siskin forgot
Where it was, where it had been and why
It had ever been afraid, remembered
Simply wanting to be
Somewhere else that moment and flew
At last from there only
To there in the open, and instantly
So swiftly nothing could know
Exactly when he began the sharp-shin
Burst out of cover around
And up in a tight swerve, struck
Without a pause, and was gone
Deep through the green tree-crown
That made no stir or murmur,
And all fell still once more
While out of his sharp talons
The sharper hook of his beak
Took its share of spring.

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