Red Tail, an Epitaph

for Marjolijn

The yard you plotted then planted has come back
wilder, the way seeming winterkill comes back wilder
for its next life. So you think, pruning-time! — when,
with a looming shadow and a gust of backwash,
the ponderous bird alights, the porch rail trembles with its weight.

The hawk dryly folds its flight feathers, mottled smoke and rust.
You turn to each other, your gazes calmly set in mutual arrest.
Add this moment to a forever starved for such a moment,
the forever that your mother made for you, made you for.
True:  she knew whatever your eyes fell on belongs to you.

At length, the bird tenses, unfurls, flares its wings, one beat
lifts, another starts a glide across the foliage, another its ascent.
It flings a cry into the trees. You steady yourself, moored at the rail,
but part of you leaves with the bird; part of the bird remains with you
more than memory. So are we with each other.

We do not take leave on such wings unscathed or unblessed
or alone. You miss her. You miss the child you were.
The first notes of a song she sang to you come back
out of nowhere, you think. So you sing them again
to summon her voice. Then you stop and listen.

Image Source

Robert Bensen

Robert Bensen has been publishing poetry since 1974 and has a volume of New & Selected Poems and Translations coming in June 2022. Among the many journals where his poems have appeared in the U.S., Europe, Caribbean, India, and Native America, are AGNI, Akwe:kon, Antioch Review, Jamaica Journal, The Paris Review and many others. He has retired from teaching writing and literature from Hartwick College (Oneonta, NY) from 1978-2017, and has been teaching since at the SUNY Oneonta campus and conducting a community workshop for Bright Hill Press and Literary Center.