Fair Game: an Avian View from Below

w/signals from Walt

The red-tailed hawk swoops. Hunting,
she neither accuses nor acknowledges.
She has no other business but her desert eyescape,
to keep the binding silence of her hunt.

Loitering in the creosote bush,
a lone quail uses the silence as a cue
to sing and yawp out his evolution
of invisibility among the cacti.

Dimensional perspectives are skewed in the sun.
Hawk and quail fail to watch the road wander
beyond the memory of our thoughtless gratitude
for the feckless pleasure of admiring relics
behind us toward any past we will not care to face.

American, United-Statesian, individual, united,
and forward forward forward squinting
into the western sun, we do not inquire into past pasts.

Our pasts, even yesterday as was,
are rootin’-tootin’, all poised in the lens
toward the subjunctive cinematic future perfect.
But Fah! to forward foraging.

We, you and I and . . . . We, who if we will,
also skewed, depart again as quantum shade,
will not care or dare to observe meaningfully.
We may gander backward, gander sideward to

the riverbank, where I look up at the cliffs.
Above me in a cleft of canyon wall
a hawk’s nest, a common red-tail.

I can just see the bullet scars around
the narrow slot, and on the ground below
part of a weathered wing.

I could try to bless this sad return
to tortured Nature of her gifts.
I could sprinkle a palmful of river water
on the few brown feathers, dry-blood-ochre sand,
the air-light fan of white wing bone.

But the water of this last free river in a desert state
has been rendered undrinkable,
rendered by our return to Nature
of her poisoned, gutshot gifts.

So I turn my back,
in leaving give such blessing as I can
by the promise of my human absence.

Wax wings aloft, black against the sun,
on behalf of the passing vulture I will practice
the vain, necessary rituals of grief—

Richard Fenton Sederstrom was raised and lives in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and the North Woods of Minnesota. Sederstrom is the author of seven books of poetry, his newest book, Icarus Rising, Misadventures in Ascension, published by Jackpine Writers' Bloc, was released last winter. Read other articles by Richard Fenton.