Hurt Hawks

I
The broken pillar of the wing jags from
    the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat,
No more to use the sky forever but live
    with famine
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death,
    there is game without talons.
He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation; at night he
    remembers freedom
And flies in a dream, the dawns ruin it.
He is strong and pain is worse to the strong,
    incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer
    will humble that head,
The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful
    to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.
You do not know him, you communal people, or you
    have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying,
    remember him.

II
I’d sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk;
    but the great redtail
Had nothing left but unable misery
From the bones too shattered for mending, the wing
    that trailed under his talons when he moved.
We had fed him six weeks, I gave him freedom,
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned
    in the evening, asking for death,
Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old
Implacable arrogance. I gave him the lead gift in the twilight.
    What fell was relaxed,
Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded
    river cried fear at its rising
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.


Read more poems by Robinson Jeffers