Bald Eagle Count

By Jack Collom b. 1931 Jack Collom

(for the Barteks)

up at 7, dress & cook an egg
black with pan soot, eat with
hot bread and butter
binoculars, book, notebook, 2 baloney sandwiches
& a peanutbutter

english sparrows singing as I walk to Hotel Yancey
pigeons wheel
above grand island
coffee & the world-herald
Saturday 7:30 in their elegant warm cafe

Vera Coons comes in her green car
we pick up her friend Bea while
speaking of Canada geese
I hear a cardinal
startling, we see a cardinal
crows flying
we’re driving south on highway 281
cornfields, bright day, temp. 21

hit the Platter Restaurant where George
Stoppekotte sits in his pickup
he climbs in, we all sit & talk & wait for Bill Schleicher
“if they take all the water out of the Platte River, by God,
we folks here are gonna sit with our fingers dry”

Bill comes with Harley Kandish, shuffle around
George & Bill lead off in the pickup, Harley rides with us
cross the Platte, gray with ice
heading west

sparrow hawk on a low fence
“when you talk about wild asparagus, those 2 guys
spot it where no one else does”
we stop, check out black blobs
in the trees, George says they
spotted wild geese
a magpie, we all drive on
— I train my binocs on the passing trees
(black Angus in bright yellow corn)
stop again, geese
“ — put a spot of salt in everything she made”
“your dipstick’ll boil that oil eventually
then you can’t get the darn varnish out”
2 ducks — scaup? goldeneye? meadowlark in a tree

we see an eagle
white-headed, gargantuan, in cottonwood
by river back — we drink
coffee — high spirits — everybody talks at once of
Spanish peanuts — postum — people
killing eagles being sick — where we’re going —
once Harley saw an eagle & a bluebird & a beaver
all in the same spot
in Colorado

& another eagle! closer perched upright, dark-bodied
turning its arctic head
in the light

drive on
ducks (buffleheads?) on Bufflehead pond
hundreds of geese flap into a field &
mass there
giant trucks whiz by

we’re 49 miles from grand island, turn south
pass piles of mallards in a pond
goldfinches lilt by
turn east
pass restored Fort Kearney
hey — great horned owl on a telephone pole
now he’s sitting on a haystack!
“there was a crippled pelican down on Steen Lake
a long while”
I’ve got pelicans on my socks

stop & piss in a refuge
Bill says “we saw an immature on a haystack once
& he was dead — not a wound on him.
maybe he at a poison mouse”
thought I heard a woodpecker pecking but it was
the pickup cooling off —
but there is a fat little downy there, we look —
english sparrows out here
sounds erupt
like a whale under the pond ice

stop for lunch here
last baloney sandwich, Vera’s coffee, cigarette
at a red picnic table by the pond &
more sandwiches, pickles, from Vera
chickadee sings
“there’s something about a deer —
couldn’t shoot one”

“this was back when the Prince of Wales
toured the country,
they entertained him at Swift & Company.
my sister-in-law was secretary to
Old Man Swift.
well she saw the Prince standing there looking forlorn
& took a glass of water up to him & asked if he was thirsty
and he was”

“I was Secretary of Equitable Finance for 47 years”
talk of city politics & economics
& ecological
considerations, & we leave,
drive east

glittering corn
3 mergansers on a pond
fly off
another eagle
Platte River iced with curving channels open
brown islands, everywhere
shit, beautiful round brick barn
young bald eagle flapping & soaring up
— 2 more, sitting in trees
— another, white-headed, closer,
sits in massive stillness,
then takes off! soars!
flashing snow light from tail & head
— drive a bit, stop & 3 more are seen
sitting among strings & bunches of brown ducks that
continually pour into & out of some
body of water there

“majestic” we say
in such majesty so multiplied
still majestic
in so much left & right of ducks?
drive on
blue lake changes from brown to silver as we pass

“there’s somebody’s little broken dream”
we walk into a sanctuary
Bill hands out peanuts in the shell
points out diamond willow
(chipping sparrow), through woods
I climb green tower & look out upon islands & channels of the Platte
“that’s alkali,
you put your finger in it & lick it & it’s just like salt”
badger hole
wild plum
“I don’t stomp em, I just throw em in there
stems & all”
“ — that’s due process”

back to the car — banana, chocolate
warm day now
talk about Greeks fixing lamb —
too much

midafternoon, sit & talk
motors start
“sunflower” “cherry wood” talk, east again
loggerhead (?) shrike flies off
meadowlarks all over sides of the road
chipping sparrow with his
white line over eye,
black-bordered chestnut cap
George saw 7 robins in a tree
nothern robin in a russian olive

paved road
walk to river & scan black spots — all nests
blue ice, blue sky
straggled brown horizon
white posts in the river
purple & yellow
hawk hovering over a field
marsh hawk?  no, red-tail —
fox squirrel way off
gray cliffs of snow in the ditch
2 hairies on a post
“I wanted to go up to Baribou to see the circus museum”
pumphouse with purple shingles

goblin shapes of field wood
panoramic freight train view
nameless little town
wave at man burning stumps
talk of water
& we slowly drive through country
wide cornfields keep us from the trees
the eagles sit in
“I just always have lip-ice”
2 hawks —
complex identification discussion, or debate, and I maintain:
ferruginous rough-leg
nearing doniphan

roads zigzag along the cardinal directions
following slow northward Platte curve
eagle again —
flapping & soaring across our path, distant —
field of lemon yellow
cooling off, sunlight graying
Swainson’s hawk above our heads, says Vera
“there’s a policeman’s car & it says ‘Whites’
live there” ...
“now they collect
interest instead of apples”

back to the Platter
people split off
north into city
nearly five o’clock
clouds lit yellow-gray in the west
twelve eagles in our wake
& legions not seen, motionless on cottonwood braches
they don’t care
& I care but it’s ok
“beautiful day”
“beautiful day”

looking into the sun
makes it all seem
light & dark

home — mara & sierra
fed ducks today
sierra showed me her new
blue car

Jack Collom, “Bald Eagle Count” from Red Car Goes By: Selected Poems 1955-2000, published by Tuumba Press. Copyright © 2001 by Jack Collom. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Source: Red Car Goes By: Selected Poems 1955-2000 (Tuumba Press, 2001)

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Poet Jack Collom b. 1931

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Relationships, Men & Women, Activities, Sports & Outdoor Activities, Nature, Animals, Social Commentaries

 Jack  Collom


Jack Collom was born in Chicago. He joined the US Air Force and was posted in Libya and Germany before returning to the United States. He earned a BA in forestry and English and an MA in English literature from the University of Colorado. Collom started publishing his poetry in the 1960s; his more recent publications are Entering the City (1997), Dog Sonnets (1998), the 500-plus page collection Red Car Goes By (2001), and . . .

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SUBJECT Relationships, Men & Women, Activities, Sports & Outdoor Activities, Nature, Animals, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

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