Four Poems by Susan Hutton

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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?




Susan Hutton’s first book, On the Vanishing of Large Creatures (2007), won Ploughshares’ John C. Zacharis’ First Book Award. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Photo of owl courtesy Pixabay.

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