ODE TO A HAWK WITH WINGS BURNING

BY RYAN TEITMAN

When our eyes can’t adjust
to the fog of late light burning

off under a heat of darkness,
a black flower blooms

for a single minute,
and the bees waiting for its nectar

die of thirst. They drop one by one
into a furry pile around the stem,

not knowing that the scarcity
of its opening fails to make the juice

any sweeter. We lie when we think
that the rare and the sacred

are like twin, unborn colts—legs tangled
as they float in the barrel

of their mother’s belly. A girl keeps
a halved pear in a jar by her bedside

and says that it’s her dead puppy’s ear,
so everyone believes her

when she kisses the glass container
goodnight, and carries it on walks

around the neighborhood. You can learn
the most horrible things, if you listen

in the moment between night and day.
I would name that moment, but to name it

would make it grow, would give old women
the leisure to kneel at the altar and light

candle after candle to ward it all away.
I won’t let it have a cadence

of the commonplace. I won’t let
my mother’s botany book grow any bigger.

I won’t let the neighborhood kids catch
another creature from my dreams,

like the day two boys
dipped a hawk in gasoline,

and tossed it into the night
with its wings still burning.

We didn’t know what to do when the deer
tangled his antlers in the rusty spokes

of the landfill bicycle at the edge
of town, so we rode

from street to street, leaving
baskets of baby fish

at the doors of every church
we could find. Pray for the filly

with the lame leg. Pray for the father
with the iron burn on his thigh.

Pray for the moon to float down
like a lost paper lantern

that finds a midnight funeral
and settles—still smoldering—

on the bare, burning branches
that cradle the ashes of a hawk.

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TeitmanRYAN TEITMAN is currently an MFA student in creative writing at Indiana University. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Copper Nickel, Crab Orchard Review, The Pinch, Puerto del Sol, Third Coast, and other journals. “Ode to a Hawk with Wings Burning” appeared in Issue 22.2-Summer/Fall 2010.