Anniversary

August Kleinzahler

You’d figure the hawk for an isolate thing,
commanding the empyrean,
taking his ease in the thermals and wind
until that retinal flick, the plunge and shriek –
cruelly perfect at what he is.
With crepe myrtle igniting the streets
and flowering pansy underfoot
I’d get out there just after dawn each day,
before the sun made it over the mesquite and honey locust.
Cliff swallows rocketed low over grass,
dragonflies darted above:
every day, on the heels of first birdsong, juice-heads
sleeping rough by the culvert.
Before the heat,
before the ebb and flow of cicada whirr swallowed the world,
when the crepe myrtle was still in bloom,
when it was the flowering pansies’ time in the park and untended lots,
and still a touch of cool in the air.
I remember once, a red-tail perched close by
on a branch or utility pole.
Maybe he came down for a better look,
but I think it was so that I might better see him,
who reigned over these few acres and beyond
and what it was about him so overmastering.
An ugly sheen encouraged some gold in his russet mantle.
His belly was white.
Look at me, he seemed to be insisting.
Behold, a pure wild heartless thing,
beautiful and horrible, nothing in-between.
I one day saw him tearing at his prey:
he was in the crook of a tree, low and close at hand,
fixed on it, drunk with it, mercilessly at it,
the sound like a cleaver tearing through meat,
cruelly what he was, nothing else.
But on another day, not long after, I heard him,
perched high on a branch, calling out,
crying out in distress, piteously,
kee-eeee-arrr, kee-eeee-arrr
a harsh, descending sound, and unrelenting,
kee-eeee-arrr kee-eeee-arrr,
panicked or wounded, terrible in his dismay,
until, suddenly, from some other corner of sky
another hawk flew down to join him,
not right there on the same branch but on another, close by.
And soon after that, off they flew together,
drifting, spiralling, higher and higher
in partnered loops, wheeling and diving,
enraptured by all they were, were able to do,
not as separate beings, but as two.