This Silent Morning

On a winter day, clear and cold and bright, I saw

A redtail hawk crumpled in the emergency lane.

After I passed it, I thought, I could have buried it

In the museum’s gardens…

As if its soul forgave me, I startled

A sparrow hawk in the parking lot, who

Flew off with its plump breakfast in its talons.

Chris saw it stoop on another sparrow

Later that day, saw them plummet to the ground.

He accidentally found the hawk’s nest

With his hand: old feathers and old bones,

Bloodless on a brick wall.

That night the sky was pewter and the trees stripped

Of their leaves were lace against a horizon

Turned electrum by the setting sun.

I drove home past Arlington and amongst old white gravestones

A new grave gaped, dark in the winter-sere grass,

Waiting for a beloved warrior: 

Some mother’s son or father’s daughter,

Even a wedded spouse who had sheltered a child.


This silent morning, only the black lace of the trees

Separates white snow from gray horizon.

From the window of my library, I can see

How the branches hold snow in their forks.

Yesterday I saw vultures feasting on a deer

Who had dragged itself from the road to die in the woods.

Today, there are deer tracks on my front stoop.

Tonight I will put out fruit for my visitor,

Perhaps the little doe limping from her fractured hock. 

And at Arlington, underneath this new snow

You can’t tell the fresh graves from the old.


26 January 2004

Woodbridge, VA


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