Poetry: A Hunter’s Bird

I

You live on these mountains,

these Alleghenies, among the laurel—

imbued with its same tenacious, rugged beauty

and toughness—

and the bedrock: sandstone and quartzite,

–sheltered by long forgotten flags

of maple and oak inextricable

with the black-beaded greenbrier curtains

that veil these hills.

Fleet-footed phantom of these mesophitic forests,

gliding silently among the ragged tops

of steel gray birch, bright cherries–

limbs laden with solstice buds and promise,

through the heavy, foreboding arms

of pine and hemlock that darken the forest floor.

Winter’s druid,

you leave scant little remembrance:

light scent floating above triangular tracks

in the too deep snow,

white droppings

atop shaggy, green-bearded windfalls.

II

Fierce-eyed raptor bird,

where are your talons?

You must have left them as you stumbled

in some dark hollow

while grazing grapes–drunk on that fall’s vintage.

You terrify me with the black of your eyes

and the thunder of your wings

as they rip the thin mountain air.

Whose heart beats faster at your flush?

III

I have breathed deep the piquant

banquet of your crop,

inhaled the story of your day

before we met, and mourned

the details of our exchange.

I have feasted

on the white succulence of your flame-kissed

breast,

bitter laurel and sweet grape

in each sample.

I have celebrated your wildness

with a dirge of sauces and sautés,

knowing

that in consuming you

I could never possess your spirit.

IV

I don’t know why I am

this hunter

whose heart both sinks and soars

at your every disappearance

over a ridge,

or into the dank, piney bottom

of some unsurpassable swamp

where I will not follow.

And at each fall–

each time I hear your wings

thrash the ground

doggedly refusing what the brain

knows.

Each time I feel

your warm weight

in the pouch at my back

I feel a joy mirrored by my dogs’ eyes

and the mirth in their smiles.

But they cannot know the sad

admiration that comes as I stroke

the ruff of your neck

and fan your tail.

  • daniel mauk

    beautiful poetry. straight crestfallen and hopeful