Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Accipiter

The porch is sleek with blown rain. Just past dawn
I glimpse a northern harrier over the wrack:
a long-tailed accipiter, a pale cross.

What brought her here from Sauvie's Island?
She flies straight and stubborn as an oared galley
looking to ram the recycling center,

At the last minute climbing over and vanishing,
dark at last, a quick black score against the sky.


Accipiter, accepter, one who takes, receives, or grasps:
my offering is a catch of the throat, of splayed toes
on cold painted wood, the wrinkling forehead

of a gray-muzzled ape, glad to wake to
an uncertain Spring, glad to rise on one knuckled fist
from a warm nest, and to see a messenger

on an unknown errand from an island of farms
south to the rain-worn marshes.


In response to this Morning Porch post.

6 comments:

Dale said...

The first stanza is almost Dave Bonta's morning porch verbatim, except that he doesn't specify the accipiter.

I did see, a month or two ago, what I stubbornly believe to be a northern harrier over the suburbs of Southeast Portland, though it was behaving more like a tired commuter than like a hawk that ordinarily wanders in hunting circles. A friend tells me she's seen harriers on Sauvie's Island, which is a a lovely bucolic Columbia river island, rich with farms. On the other side of Southeast Portland is the wildlife refuge of Oak's Bottom, on the east bank of the Willamette, which I imagine to have been this bird's destination.

Lucy said...

I love seeing all raptors, even the commonplace ones, like kestrels (dappled dawn drawn falcon!). Hen harriers are best, especially the ghost-grey males, if I'm lucky I see one a year.

Lovely poem, I love the 'grey-muzzled ape'!

Thanks for your dear words on mine.

Dale said...

Well, shoot. Dave tells me a northern harrier isn't an accipiter, so there goes the poem. I thought "accipiter" was English for "anything in the accipitridae family, but it's not, it's a genus thereof, and harriers aren't in it. Not one of taxonomy's finest moments, but it's my fault for not reading more closely. Phooey.

caroleesherwood said...

don't throw the poem away. you can rework it. that ending is just too too good to abandon:

the wrinkling forehead

of a gray-muzzled ape, glad to wake to
an uncertain Spring, glad to rise on one knuckled fist
from a warm nest, and to see a messenger

on an unknown errand from an island of farms
south to the rain-worn marshes.

Dave said...

Poetic license may not cover calling a harrier an accipiter, but it certainly permits the hawk in the poem to be an accipiter. Just switch species, dude. I love "a quick black score against the sky," as well as the ending that Carolee cites. A keeper for sure.

Anne said...

Well, I am certainly no expert judge, either of harriers or accipiters or poems, for that matter, but I think it's a good poem. I like it. I recently read in "Age of Wonder" that in the first draft of "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer Keats made the error of substituting Cortez for Balboa as the first Spaniard to reach the Pacific. Anyone can make a little mistake like that, but not many can write a good poem.