My wife called me to tell me that she had been watching the sparrows feeding on the lawn when, from out of nowhere, a hawk swooped and took one, carrying it away.
And I thought - I know a poem in which that happens: I think the victim is a robin.
But for the life of me, I can remember neither author nor poem.
Do you recall these lines, by chance?
Tales of the robin and the wren,
Of gods who died and lived again,
Of journeys to the other side
To bring back secrets, act as guide
A common theme, it seems Stephen, there are at least a half dozen poems here which tell of a hawk killing a smaller bird, or other prey: [www.poemhunter.com] />
Here's a sample:
The Food Chain
My mother hung out seeds
for the endangered sparrow...
and whatever eats its chickballs.
Pluckings, in a semi-circle.
the musket hawk gripped her
in her kitchen hide, dainty
as Apicius with a dormouse,
unabashed at intestines.
She feasted on his minutiae,
his tail's broad banner-stripes,
five pale spots
on the grey of his uniform,
his hot blush of vermillion.
She waited for her sparrowhawk
to return, but he never did.
Mine was near Llangollen
in the sunset, by that long
diagonal of foothill-rear
blazing with sienna... her
tail fuller, round at the base.
Pigeon's heart, her delectable...
the tall schoolgirl who pounced
on a delicate older boy,
Not the one you seek, but a delightful read:
The Meadow Mouse
In a shoe box stuffed in an old nylon stocking
Sleeps the baby mouse I found in the meadow,
Where he trembled and shook beneath a stick
Till I caught him up by the tail and brought him in,
Cradled in my hand,
A little quaker, the whole body of him trembling,
His absurd whiskers sticking out like a cartoon-mouse,
His feet like small leaves,
Whitish and spread wide when he tried to struggle away,
Wriggling like a minuscule puppy.
Now he's eaten his three kinds of cheese and drunk from his
So much he just lies in one corner,
His tail curled under him, his belly big
As his head; his bat-like ears
Twitching, tilting toward the least sound.
Do I imagine he no longer trembles
When I come close to him?
He seems no longer to tremble.
But this morning the shoe-box house on the back porch is empty.
Where has he gone, my meadow mouse,
My thumb of a child that nuzzled in my palm? --
To run under the hawk's wing,
Under the eye of the great owl watching from the elm-tree,
To live by courtesy of the shrike, the snake, the tom-cat.
I think of the nestling fallen into the deep grass,
The turtle gasping in the dusty rubble of the highway,
The paralytic stunned in the tub, and the water rising,--
All things innocent, hapless, forsaken.
He picks his pond, and the soft thicket of his world.
He bids his lady come, and she does,
flirting with her tail.
He begins early, and makes up his song as he goes.
He does not enter a house at night, or when it rains.
He is not afraid of the wind, though he is cautious.
He watches the snake, that stripe of black fire,
until it flows away.
He watches the hawk with her sharpest shins, aloft
in the high tree.
He keeps his prayer under his tongue.
In his whole life he has never missed the rising of the sun.
He dislikes snow.
But a few raisins give him the greatest delight.
He sits in the forelock of the lilac, or he struts
in its shadow.
He is neither the rare plover or the brilliant bunting,
but as common as the grass.
His black cap gives him a jaunty look, for which
we humans have learned to tilt our caps, in envy.
When he is not singing, he is listening.
Neither have I ever seen him with his eyes closed.
Though he may be looking at nothing more than a cloud
it brings to his mind several dozen new remarks.
From one branch to another, or across the path,
he dazzles with flight.
Since I see him every morning, I have rewarded myself
the pleasure of thinking that he knows me.
Yet never once has he answered my nod.
He seems, in fact, to find in me a kind of humor,
I am so vast, uncertain and strange.
I am the one who comes and goes,
and who knows why.
Will I ever understand him?
Certainly he will never understand me, or the world
I come from.
For he will never sing for the kingdom of dollars.
For he will never grow pockets in his gray wings.
Rock And Hawk
Here is a symbol in which
Many high tragic thoughts
Watch their own eyes.
This gray rock, standing tall
On the headland, where the seawind
Lets no tree grow,
Earthquake-proved, and signatured
By ages of storms: on its peak
A falcon has perched.
I think here is your emblem
To hang in the future sky;
Not the cross, not the hive,
But this; bright power, dark peace;
Fierce consciousness joined with final
Life with calm death; the falcon's
Realist eyes and act
Married to the massive
Mysticism of stone,
Which failure cannot cast down
Nor success make proud.
The Sudden Light And The Trees
My neighbor was a biker, a pusher, a dog
and wife beater.
In bad dreams I killed him
and once, in the consequential light of day,
I called the Humane Society
about Blue, his dog. They took her away
and I readied myself, a baseball bat
inside my door.
That night I hear his wife scream
and I couldn't help it, that pathetic
relief; her again, not me.
It would be years before I'd understand
why victims cling and forgive. I plugged in
the Sleep-Sound and it crashed
like the ocean all the way to sleep.
One afternoon I found him
on the stoop,
a pistol in his hand, waiting,
he said, for me. A sparrow had gotten in
to our common basement.
Could he have permission
to shoot it? The bullets, he explained,
might go through the floor.
I said I'd catch it, wait, give me
a few minutes and, clear-eyed, brilliantly
afraid, I trapped it
with a pillow. I remember how it felt
when I got my hand, and how it burst
that hand open
when I took it outside, a strength
that must have come out of hopelessness
and the sudden light
and the trees. And I remember
the way he slapped the gun against
his open palm,
kept slapping it, and wouldn't speak.
Thanks Les, but it isn't any of these. But my, that last one is powerful, yes?
But my, that last one is powerful, yes?
Yes, it is Stephen.
I have you to thank for helping me discover some wonderful poems this time. People wonder why I spend hours a day chasing after some obscure poem, finding one gem in the archives is worth all the trouble.
Good luck with your search. I knew you'd probably combed the Poem Hunter website, but thought I'd post a few just in case.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/08/2006 01:39AM by lg.
I had the misfortune to live next to a criminal for several years, and felt just like that Dunn describes that sparrow (penultimate stanza) when he finally moved. It's not only powerful, it's accurate!!