The Abrupt Edge

 

Iain Haley Pollock

In the thicket

sloping up

from the house,

a chorus of birds

warble, celebrate

the quiet majesty

of day come to dusk.

The red-tailed has

his call too, war

shriek of a soldier

accustomed to the field,

a call to mark

hunting ground,

to raise the alarm

to his mate and young

when danger—a horned

owl—wings close.

For now, above

the songbirds,

he is oak-perched

and silent,

some quarry’s fate

in this moment, at once,

unknown and certain.

One sparrow flits

past the abrupt edge

into view, out

of the thicket’s shelter

into the yard,

the open. And

for what? A seed

spilled in the high,

late summer grass,

a seed to crack

and throat down

in the imagined

safety of the nest?

The hawk dives

hard, sharp shins

and talons thrust out,

violent and awkward,

none of the falcon’s

streamlined grace. Dives

silently until, too late,

the sparrow hears

the menacing wind

of descent

in the hawk’s

mottled feathers

before, not the talons,

but the sheer force

of impact crushes

bone and organ

into the ground.

Knocks hunger

and what remains

of song

from a small,

hollow-boned body

too enraptured

by orange dusk,

by the promise

of day’s last seed.

A body too ignorant

of sky and above

to have been afraid.