Evidence Examination – Eagle
Bag after bag, the evidence is collected
Released from the place of custody
Carried to the place of examination
Recorded, the numbers and the tags
Now, break the seals, turn the insides out
Fill the air with cloud, free it all
Set about to rebuild this eagle
Stripped from its flesh and its bones
Most feathers are small, coverts and hackles
The armor of the body, shivered to pieces
Sort and arrange, pile up an implication of body
Lay out the place for the head, the tail
Within this drift are the pinions
Slide out each blade, measure and spread
Array them into left wing and right
As if this table was gunmetal sky
By end of day, the ghost is clothed
The wingtips feeling for the wind
The bristling head waiting for its eyes
The eagle remade, ready for blood
In the dust, a diamond ring, bullet brass,
gum wrapper, shard of glass, catches the light,
throws the sun back toward the juniper
where the magpie perches, has been perched,
turning problems around and around in her head
through the slow afternoon.
The flash deflects that flow of mind, sends it
elsewhere, backward down the path of light,
ignites the first fire of greed, spark
of consuming desire, begins the wanting
that ends at the edge of that cliff
where we have built our castle, civilization.
Head turns, too fast to see. The bird is gone.
Riding down black and white wings,
long tail flowing behind, color of oil slick
in the setting sun. The bright thing seized –
brief joy! Now, it must be kept.
The magpie begins to think.
Soft, sharp crests, butter-yellow bellies
melting into brown of breasts
trim, neat, tidy – incarnate modesty
But, along the folded wings, dotted
on the feathertips, red daubs of wax
red as fresh blood, as if the pinions
of Icarus’ melting wings had bled
as they fell away, and the wax
the birds bear is carried in remembrance
of that folly and that dream
The waxwings take flight, hurry away
across the sky, their trilling calls
as if in lamentation still for the falling boy
To a Starling
Let’s be done with anger, you and I.
As a boy I was taught hate and learned it well,
sighted down the long barrel of my Marlin .22
at you, invader, nest-stealer, fruit-destroyer,
and carefully squeezed the trigger,
then picked up your body by a wing tip
(bright drop of blood hanging at your beak)
and slung you to the waiting cat.
Fifty years later and on the far edge
of the continent I look up
at your wheeling thousands gathering
for night beside the river.
You are a fact I must live with, one of many,
and (I see now) more beautiful than most.
You were not what Emily had in mind,
not her “thing with feathers,” but you
are hope after all, spiked and glossy,
making the most of everything,
sure to endure, beyond the end.
Pepper Trail is the author of three poetry collections: Flight Time, An Empty Bowl, and Cascade-Siskiyou: Poems, which was a finalist for the 2016 Oregon Book Award. His poems have appeared in Rattle, Atlanta Review, Spillway, Borderlands, and elsewhere, and his environmental essays appear regularly in High Country News. He lives in Ashland, Oregon, where he works as an ornithologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Featured Photo Credit: Jim Livaudais