Up until two summers ago, when I heard this ungodly racket from the pine tops around our Maine cabin, I’d never heard the eerie cry of a sharp-shinned hawk. Little guy with a big appetite, turns out. We kept finding feathers of little songbirds on the ground, evidence of a swift and final judgment for some innocent celebrating late spring and early summer. Some innocent who became a meal for nesting hawks.
Since then we’ve become more used to our new neighbors, but I knew, that first summer, that the sharp-shinned–one of the smallest of all North American hawks–would fly its way into a poem.
Ultimately, it was published in the Winter 2017 issue of Plainsongs, a poetry journal put out by Hastings College in Nebraska. From there, its final perch would be the first poem of the Second Search in the recently-released Lost Sherpa of Happiness. Enjoy!
Sharp-Shinned Hawk & the Song Sparrow
by Ken Craft
All spring, the punctured sky collapses blue
beneath the shrill knives of their call.
All day, shriek and talon, eye and hunger
from the heat of a red-black gullet.
They circle overhead, dive under liquid
evergreen, glide through currents of hardwood,
trunk and limb. Nestling, fledgling,
songbird—on ground or mid-flight—
leaving only an orphan feather for changeling.
And here I hear the song sparrow sing.
Here in the narrow interstice between stealth and wait.
Her three notes. Her cheerful trill. Her hesitation
at the wood’s held breath.
Then, song again.
To sun or cloud, maybe. Wind or mate.
She sings to the stillness of quiet’s dull edge.
She sings to not knowing that every joy
in life is answered, eventually.