by Andrew Feld


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226240398
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 03/20/2012
Series: Phoenix Poets Series
Edition description: Original
Pages: 88
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Andrew Feld is assistant professor in the Department of English at the University of Washington and editor in chief of the Seattle Review. He is the author of Citizen.

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Copyright © 2012 The University of Chicago
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-226-24039-8

Chapter One

We call raptorial all those birds who, employing their powerful flight and the special fitness of their members, prey upon any other bird or beast they are able to hold and whose whole sole sustenance is the flesh of such animals. These are the eagles, hawks, owls, falcons and other similar genera. They feed only upon their prey—never upon dead flesh or carrion—and are therefore called rapacious birds.

Among the characteristic forms of their organs may be mentioned: the beak, which in birds of prey is generally curved, strong, hard, and sharp, claws that are bent inward and are hard and needle-pointed; retracted eyes; a short neck, short legs, and the posterior toe of each foot very strong. The female is always larger than the male. Not all the foregoing is true of non-raptorial birds.

Functionally also they differ in that raptorials are more keen-sighted and have more acute hearing than other birds. They are strong in flight but walk badly. They dislike water and drink little, fly alone, and live long. They drive their young early from the nest and then abandon them; and this behavior is not that of nonrapacious birds.

The Art of Falconry, Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen


    What I wanted was a goshawk on my wrist,
    A docile bit of wilderness in my care.
    Her setting-sun red eye returned my stare.
    Inside the cage I am a nurse, waiter,
    And janitor. Outside, an austringer.
    I searched for one all day in the forest.
    Now Chiefly poet. Now Shakes. Now sing. Now rare.

    I searched for one all day in the forest
    So I could cross the bird off my life-list.
    At the Center I fed her as you hold this
    Poem—at a reading distance. The flared
    Warning of her red eyes refuted my stare:
    You will never cross me off your life-list.
    Now Chiefly poet. Now Shakes. Now sing. Now rare.

    You wanted a little bit of wilderness
    Held docile on your wrist. What could be tamer
    Than extinct? At the trail head, the profiled picture.
    If you see this bird, call our 800 number.
    Because except what you allow me there
    Is no wilderness, there is no wilderness.
    Now Chiefly poet. Now Shakes. Now sing. Now rare.


    I'd sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk.
    — Robinson Jeffers, "Hurt Hawks"


    He hadn't meant to hit the bird, he said
    repeatedly, although not one of us
    who had to mend the wing-shot hawk believed him.
    We lifted the red-tail, half-dead with loss
    of blood, out of the box she had arrived in
    like a small mummy from a sarcophagus.
    When she flicked the milky filters of her eyelids
    I saw my shadow-shape projected across
    a screen, grown representative and monstrous.

    He hadn't meant to hit the bird, he said
    stubbornly, as to convince himself, or us,
    his punishment—to stay in the corner where
    quails and rats defrosted in a trough
    while his father waited out in the car
    and we tried to keep alive the bird he shot—
    was too severe, unjust. He hadn't intended
    any injury, not even as he pulled
    the trigger and watched it fall into his neighbor's field.

    He hadn't meant to hit the bird, he said.
    The gun, a birthday present, made the act seem
    part of a ceremony: what better way
    to mark the date of your arrival in
    this world—the day was his eleventh birthday—
    than by taking out a life? The hawk screamed
    once as it fell from the distance where it lived
    so far beyond the extension of his will
    it seemed impossible to hit, or hurt, or kill.

    He hadn't meant to hit the bird, and I
    tried to follow the thought back to those fields
    where nothing ever changes but the weather
    and what the work of his farming neighbors yields.
    The boredom that turns into a kind of fever.
    The stirring inner life. He was still a child,
    cornered, in fatigues, and trying not to cry
    as we ignored him—if he'd killed a man we'd all
    have been the more compassionate, the less appalled.

    He hadn't meant to hit the bird. Who cared?
    While we immobilized the broken wing
    the boy stayed frozen in the corner where
    his father told him to stay, his rat-tail dangling
    limply into the rodent-like fine hairs
    across his neck. There was internal bleeding.
    With surgical tweezers we picked bone shards
    and dirt out of the bullet hole, and went
    about the careful business of his punishment.


    The silence arrived with them, full-blown and brittle,
        along with the hawk,
    swaddled in a towel once white but now use-yellowed

    and grained with green swaths of degreaser,
        then placed in a box
    as per our instructions. As an instrument, blind

    to the long-term results, we could only speak
        of the immediate effects,
    which apparently were mutually punishing.

    The image I have of them is the brick-red hood
        of their Subaru curving
    past moss-covered rock faces on Route 126,

    the two-lane highway leading like a fallen kite's string
        through McKenzie Bridge,
    Blue River, Leaburg, Nimrod, Walterville, Thurston,

    rural POs and gas stations shouldering up out of
        the fog then sinking
    back under, to Springfield and Eugene where we

    were prepped and waiting. I can't keep my mind
        out of the front seat.
    In the rear of the Outback the high-school science

    texts he teaches slide on their backs, open and riffling
        from biology to chemistry
    and geology, the box full of bird in the back seat

    a kind of case study as the estranged creature
        beside him hugs his
    nylon chest strap and stares at the dash and he flips

    through the little he knows of child psychology.
        He's driving too fast.
    All the way there the McKenzie seethed on the left,

    spring-fed rivulets muscled with melt, each tributary
        mouth frothing
    where it met the river rising out of its bed and over

    the top to those of us who prefer our aggression
        more passive. Water
    that turbid is surface all the way to the bottom.

    When I started this poem I was concerned
        with shame, that undercurrent
    stretched between them, tensing the silence

    which resumed in an altered pitch after the shot
        interrupted the flat fields
    and echoed back like a second shooter and the hawk

    slid down the sky screeching. I think the boy
        could use a little music.
    He'd like to hear the thin mouth of the car stereo sing

    a page or two from the Great American Songbook.
        The father is still running
    across the field. After the interrogation, anger

    will twist the vise-like muscles of his jaw shut.
        Inside are eddies
    which at their base resolve into black circles

    the same size and shape as the volume and tone knobs
        on both sides of the stereo's
    face. Just because the songs are minimal variations

    on a few themes, bright gloss or rebuttal, doesn't mean
        they're any less heartfelt.
    They're still us. When the boy tried to turn the radio on

    his father slapped his hand away, which was the only
        time they touched
    in the three hours it took them to drive from Redmond

    to the Raptor Center. Even the self-winding voices
        of talk radio would
    have bound them to the familiar. Even unconscious,

    a bit of froth in a furrow of the High Desert Country's
        expanse, the red-tail,
    a gorgeous pale morph, impressed both with the weight

    of what it had fallen from and into. The little abysmal
        mark of its contact
    with us near the right shoulder, bleeding. The father

    couldn't breathe. The son didn't need to.

    for Pimone

    Recalcitrant and hard to train, the haggard
    goshawk clutches my wrist, the pattern on
    his front like shadowed snow called mail: jesses,
        leash, and swivel, his bells
    replaced by a telemetry device,
    he images a sense-intelligence
    wholly responsive to the summer field,
    to him alive with switches turning on and off.

    In hooded sleep the ornament he is
    more than requites the disciplined patience
    the passage bird caught beyond her second
        season demands;
as in
    any late-life marriage, instinct's awry
    until rewired, as appetite provides
    an access to that balance or accord
    where difference defines itself by recognition.

    Unblinded, each blink of his two-lidded eyes
    admits another fraction into the scope
    of his attention. The way you hear the day
        click into focus as he lifts
    a lizard foot to test his jess then pliers it
    around your thumb is fucking awesome, as is
    the release of when you throw him to the winds.
    Hidden in reeds, a goldfinch shifts to full alarm.

    The straps and husbandry, the exercise
    of wills chafing at limit, pricing cartons
    of beef and chicken stock at the QFC,
        as in nostalgia's cost-
    ineffective false binary the goshawk
    follows with love and active heat the game:
    drawn to the lure of a shared diet, we wait
    for love's connecting strings to latch onto the kill.

    Since marriage is a form of making, some days
    we're lightning-struck. Others, faculty meetings.
    In the kitchen reeds and switchgrass click as the dishwasher,
        that excellent
    machine, thrums through the stages of its mimic
    intelligence—soak, scrub, rinse—and in the moment
    the machine allows for us, I hover above
    you, stalled by an imperative wider than thought.

    The field grows distant. Then closer than ever.
    From below the creased topography of our sheets
    a sleep leaches up to claim us, against appetite,
        which only sharpens on
    the whetstone of you. The blinds are back down.
    There is a gravity, a weight, to each
    word we allow into this intimacy, here,
    before silence clamps its open mouth over us.


    "Birds of prey have no song." — James Richardson

    This happened on my first day there. Class,
    pay attention. The bird was bronze, pine-mulch
    brown and beaten copper wire, not golden. Think
    before you speak. Much can be conveyed
    through tone. The eagle's voice was sampled
    from Metal Machine Music, an album that can
    drive roaches out of your apartment. It's good
    to think of music as having a function, praise,
    or lament, satire or warning. It's good to think.
    Never walk in front of an unhooded eagle.
    Remember, experience is a dim lamp
    which illuminates only the one who carries it.
    Wearing a little leather cap and held tightly
    between my upper arms, the eagle was as if
    asleep: it was like holding a baby swaddled
    in razor wire, although size and the caution
    accorded to the useless wing made the experience
    for me a very Pietà kind of thing. God, won't you
    pay attention? When a raptor has been injured
    so it no longer can survive in the wild we call
    that condition educational, which doesn't mean
    it's tame. To trim the talons, fully extend
    the leg, and the muscles will pull the foot open.

    There is the small glee we feel in the presence
    of elegant machinery, which is separate
    from its function. Use dog-nail clippers
    for the claws, for the beak a small power-sander
    like hobbyists use on dollhouses. The similarities
    between Ren Faires and wildlife rehabilitation
    are more than a shared love of leather gauntlets
    and Elizabethan terminology, and some of these birds
    are named for Tolkien's elves, which is kind of
    embarrassing? Another function is to encase
    the significant moment in amber although here
    they use 2 x 4s and chicken wire. Back under
    her Plexiglas roof, Eowyn is a thought followed
    to its complete, unhappy conclusion. Think
    of Schoenberg's emancipation of dissonance, of
    Ornette Coleman and all 17 minutes of "Sister Ray."
    Expand your definition of song. Avoid aphorism.


    With spring there came that sense of clarity
        we'd missed all through the rainy months, although
    the somnolescent clouds still held their ground;
        the change was slow and what we felt was less
    the promise of enameled days or that
        love's blade might strike the jetting vein again
    than that the bulk of days had shifted in a new
        direction, away from us, as the sky thinned.

    In March I heard Louise in her office
        above the visitors' center haranguing
    her forestry contact about the lack
        of useful information on their website;
    then, descending from the flight cage, I found
        four deer legs the funny state troopers left
    propped at a standstill in the gauzy mist
        as if they had outrun their animal.

    A cold wisp licked the back of my neck as I
        considered how the bureaucracy that owns
    our birds from molt to tail feather compensates
        for the lack of any central intelligence
    with a kind of wit barbed with malevolence.
        I wrapped the road-killed legs in plastic bags
    and buried them deep in the outdoor freezer.
        It was like that: the vibrant image, the aftermath.

    Days spent crawling under shrieking kestrels
        to scrub out their whitewashed black plastic tub
    or in a crabbed dance with our ferruginous hawk
        scrunching away on his Astroturf-covered perch,
    keeping as much distance as his small cell
        allowed between us as if by mutual
    agreement—although our only mutual
        is the tethering hunger we use to bind our birds

    to us and overcome their deep-rooted
        abhorrence of the human face, dreadful
    to her as to all other animals.

        Always, the face of man is the lion's face.
    As our almost-eagle stretched out a wing
        like a broken comb, I felt again the shame
    of an instinctive reaction to the powerlessness
        of love rebounding on its object.

    Outside the rotting salmon dumpster-stink
        which seemed to issue from our osprey's wound
    and filled her cage, or where our turkey vulture
        Lethe pecked at the exposed veins that are
    my bootlaces, the spring flowers bloomed out
        a counterpoint, white petals of Trillium
    echoing the green, Star-Flowered Solomon's Seal,
        Indian Plum and the Red-Flowering Currant.

    You know how any practiced speech becomes
        theatrical?—so the rote recitals of
    my guide talk turned my voice into a stranger's
        leading you through the small cell of my self-
    consciousness, a voice at odds with its subject,
        ingratiating, false—and these cages
    only numbered and labeled boxes in
        the warehouse where they're storing the disaster.

    Then the little difference between the dead
        bird in my hand and the one with a yellow eye
    aimed at my handful of quail narrowed to nothing
        and I became elegy's functionary.
    Brown-veined petals of the Yellow Wood Violet,
        deep rose flowers of the Salmonberry,
    Star-Flowered Solomon's Seal, Indian Plum,
        Red-Flowering Current and Western Trillium.

    Here is my day: a drawer of mice I shake
        to keep excessive life from spilling out
    then slide in the asphyxiating oven.
        The resigned feet entering the beak, the tail
    curlicuing into a question mark, as if
        still curious of what it entered into.
    An owl with one eye cataracted blind,
        the other bright with purpose, focused beyond,

    to where the netted shadows of the state
        forest fall on the bright borders of our
    groomed lawns and trails. At my shift's end the sky
        also locks down, and in the old growth trees
    surrounding us a wooing, hooing voice
        evades its source as we listen, trying
    to draw shades of meaning between the call
        and its corresponding, captive answer.

    We like to think they call each other out
        of love, which we find sweet; what weirds us out
    is not the great horned male moving inside
        the light-excluding heights just outside our
    borders, his voice always one flight removed
        from the still-trembling throat we feel as ours,
    become the body of his audience,
        or how it brings our half-blind female awake

    to the extreme of her confinement, clambering up
        the chicken wire; but how they start calling

    too late, too late to each other before
        it's registered on us as dark, and I'm
    still busy with my tasks—so much, this late,
        impossible to finish, down on my knees
    with a handful of pellets grained with mice teeth
        and vertebrae, smaller and finer than life.


Excerpted from Raptor by ANDREW FELD Copyright © 2012 by The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Cascade Raptor Center : Capture....................4
The Art of Falconry....................10
The Work....................12
The Art of Falconry....................21
The Game....................25
Little Viral Song....................29
There : An Epistle....................39
Epilogue to "There"....................43
After Johnny Carson's Final Appearance on The Tonight Show....................44
Tongue : An Ode....................46
Hybrid Imprint....................57
Cascade Raptor Center : Release....................66
The Test....................70
The Hunt....................74
Raptor : A Brief Lexicon....................76

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