Gerald Friedman: “A Race of the Red-tailed Hawk”





A Race of the Red-tailed Hawk 

Audubon shot a hawk,
mostly black-brown.  Painting it
while it still lived, he said,
he chocolate-covered its white marks,
tidied its tail pattern,
not thinking both were typical.
He wrote tall stories:
his specimen bred in Louisiana,
feared him only when he carried his gun.
He baptized it in Latin
after his friend Dr. Harlan;
in English, “Black Warrior”,
maybe something good to have
dying or dead
to be depicted as he saw fit.

Morning frost by the Rio Grande.
All summer Harlan’s, black or rare white,
glided down from Alaska
in my mind.  Now
a red-tail screams. At me?
I sneak, a commando,
to capture it with my camera,
barely disturbing
fragile cottonwood leaves.
By some occult sense
it feels me, flies, straight
as limbs slip by.  Out of view.
But I’ll call it a Harlan’s,
tail white constellated in black.
A stereotypical birdwatcher,
I’m already checking my pictures.
One shot caught that tail,
so I’ll get an accepted sighting.



About the Author: Gerald Friedman grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, and now teaches physics in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  He has published poetry in various magazines, recently Rat’s Ass Review, Entropy, The Daily Drunk, and Better Than Starbucks.


Image Credit: Plate 86 of Birds of America by John James Audubon depicting “Black Warrior Falco harlani” Public Domain

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