These poems are part of Poetry Northwest‘s “Life List” feature.
News of the Day
My neighborhood Facebook group uses all caps
and exclamation points: THE HAWK IS BACK!!
Be careful with your cats and babies, with the cars
on the street and your dogs and your neighbor’s dogs,
with the roses and peonies we planted last spring.
Watch out for stooping, circling, screeching.
Watch out for wild, wide yellow eyes searching.
Post after post after post. The hawk the hawk the hawk!
THE HAWK!! As if it would explode upon us,
a bomb of blood and feathers, a missile with talons,
its beak a serrated blade. All the posts are angry
about the same thing, a trail of songbird corpses
lining the sidewalks, no more silly conversations
at the bird feeders, just the silence of death, everywhere.
Every few weeks the same script. It’s a killer. It kills.
My husband tells me about the most recent threads
and I skulk online to read, trying to find the exact
last sighting, what tree, what lamppost, what cement
intersection or stop sign. I can never navigate its location.
Sometimes I go outside just to make sure it is not right
there in a tree, willing it to appear in that scraggling
sapling. It is never there. And in that moment, I lament
the empty bird feeder too. How will it come this way
if there are no small bodies, no bones to crack?
How will it find its way to me if I have no sacrifices?
Once, by chance, on a walk I think I saw it perched
in the neighbor’s tree tearing into a limp, unraveling
hunk of meat with feather. Let me be clear.
When I read the Facebook posts, I wish, only,
for swallows, or a murmuration starlings
or some other offering to throw on the front lawn.
Ode to Kody
I have loved you for a decade,
watched your wings folded into
your chest, the burnt brown
hues, the white brightness of your feathers
flicker against the dirty glass cage,
heart and claws recoiled.
Stellar eagles are far from home in south
western Pennsylvania. When I worked
at the aviary, I would walk past your
window, lean into the sunlight
speckled onto your body. You never
looked at me or anyone, clung
to branches of fake trees
facing north. Your body rejected
audiences of gawking kids, pink
skinned adults, trainers who loved
you with frozen mice
and other eyeless meats.
You faced no one. Never looked
for anyone. I imagined you
exhausted, lonely, even with a mate.
I imagined how you wanted to stretch
out the fifteen-foot width
of your wings, catch air, catch light and sky
grab the heat of the sun, glide along drafts
looking for fish, not something mashed,
or frozen, with no life to gut out.
When you escaped, I cackled like I was
the one who fled, like I was the one
who found a hole in the wire mesh,
like I was the one who wanted
to flee beyond the rivers. I willed you
to remember to hunt and break
bones with your beak. I followed
your routes, your sightings
as you flew from everyone who
wanted to bring you back to an empty
casket. I wished you enough memory to leave
that ashen place and find the ocean.
Now that you are netted, returned
to a plastic world without blood,
I still wish you other ways
M. Soledad Caballero, Professor of English & co-chair of the WGSS department at Allegheny College, is a Macondo and CantoMundo fellow, winner of 2019 Joy Harjo Poetry Prize from Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts, and winner of the 2020 SWWIM’s SWWIM-For-the-Fun-of-It contest. Her poems have appeared in The Missouri Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Crab Orchard Review, and other venues. Her collection I Was a Bell won the 2019 Benjamin Saltman Poetry Prize and was published by Red Hen Press in 2021. I Was a Bell was also the 2022 International Association of Autoethnography and Narrative Inquiry book of the year and a 2022 International Latino Book Award winner. She is an avid TV watcher and a terrible birder.