Some afternoons I entered the enclosed spaces where the injured raptors lived. They’d flown into power lines or had been hit by cars, and they would not get any better. From their enclosures they could see the woods and the sky. Turkey vultures flew in from the trees and stood on our turkey vulture’s roof. I had become someone who extended her gloved hand to a great horned owl that would lift up its talons and step electing not to crush my hand, as it could have. Holding such a creature you understand there is something permanently alien in the world that resembles the powers we hold over each other: the way this man arouses me but not that one, the body the conduit through which the universe is conducted, all of us caught in what we have to be that is not us, as when my children are snagged on a trivial distraction from deep in the midbrain; where trouble starts, where accidents happen, and where animateness is made, in our case, human. Or owlish. Vulturine. Falconoid. What have you.
To Live My Life All Over Again
In the typical way we talk about animals we don’t allow for variation between this vixen tending her kits and that one. As if each creature controlled entirely by instinct, is known and predictable. As if nothing changes between generations, and the lame or the orphaned, the victims of accidents, suffer no lasting effects from their fate. What children ever really know their mother or the life she lived before they were born?
The us that was here two million years ago had not yet become human. Which makes it hard to say where we began. Hello, fossil tracks! Skeleton relic, we met in the great loop of alive. A frankly ancient pebble should stop us in wonder as much as seeing a stag at rest against the curve of a cave wall. But it’s all in the presentation, like the head angled just so. The universe our senses conjure is incomplete. Think of the infinite angles that a bird can approach an object. The iceberg lettuce that crossed the country by train was not the iceberg that found the Titanic, and a word like us won’t always correspond to the same thing. Remember when the earth was flat? When lions mated with leopards, and the violence that came from uncoupling belief and truth? Picture the way a body unhinges after trauma to illustrate what is happening to the mind.
All and Not Enough
Last night, another great snow, and now the sky is white as paper. The snow burns with an inner blue. Upstairs my daughter softly moves across the floor as she rises to wash her face and dress. At thirteen, she is apart from us, gathering her strength, like a monarch fixed to milkweed. The wind keens into powdery clouds and when it stops the air is exact. Is this the strange clarity that draws the soprano to her note, or the upset in the electric field that leads the shark to its prey?