Kestrel in an Apocalyptic Landscape

Kestrel: (from French crécerelle, derivative from crécelle, i.e. ratchet)

 

Also known as windhover because he can hover, even in still air, but when he

hovers he usually faces toward a breeze, no matter how slight.

 

Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote

 

Dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding / of the rolling level underneath him steady air . . . .

 

Say that aloud: in his riding / of the rolling level underneath him steady air . . . .

 

rolling level underneath him steady             five troches that roll along

like a wave, cresting and falling, cresting and falling   and land         lightly             on air

 

In some future time and place a kestrel perches on a leafless branch on a leafless tree, waits

for something to stir. The landscape is open, naked, brown as his dominant plumage (but oh

the blue-gray of his wings, the black streak descending from his eye like a tear).

 

With a push he sends himself into the rolling level underneath him steady air. All is silent

except for the clack of his feathers as he holds himself upright facing into a breeze,

tailfeathers spread, wingfeathers spread, head bent like a penitent to scan the ground.

 

Scorpion.

 

He tilts and sleekens and spills himself down, talons thrusting, strikes.

 

Dead insect in claw he lifts and flaps back to his tree, to the hollow space in its trunk, where

she waits for him with the new one, first to emerge from the clutch, and only.

 

He drops his gift and she shares it with the hatchling.

mm

Christine Holland Cummings

Christine Holland Cummings lives in Menlo Park, California with her husband and dog, where she has turned her small suburban plot into a native plant wildlife habitat. Her poems have appeared in Bellowing Ark, Blueline, Hamilton Stone Review, Manzanita Quarterly, The Sand Hill Review, Blue Arc, Dark Matter: Women Witnessing, an anthology of California poets from Tebot Bach Press, and a poetry anthology about loss of companion animals titled Our Last Walk

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