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Over our heads, trailing a wake of air
and an enormous shadow as it passed,
the falcon glided to its trainer’s fist
and settled like a loaded weapon there.
Then, while she fed the bird bit after bit
of... what? rabbit? the trainer gave her talk:
These birds, she said, prey on the small and weak,
adding for the children’s benefit
that this, though it seems cruel, is really good
since otherwise the other rabbits, mice,
squirrels, what have you, would run out of space
and die of illness or a lack of food.
I know what she was trying to get across,
and I don’t doubt it would be healthier
if we were more familiar than we are
with how the natural world draws life from loss;
and granted, nothing is more natural
than death incarnate falling from the sky;
and granted, it is better some should die,
however agonizingly, than all.
Still, to teach children this is how things go
is one thing, to insist that it is good
is something else—it is to make a god
of an unsatisfactory status quo,
this vicious circle that the clock hands draw
and quarter, while the serpent bites its tail,
or eats the dust, or strikes at someone’s heel,
or winds up comprehended by a claw.
She launched the bird again. We watched it climb
out of the amphitheatre, headed toward
the darkened spires of a nearby wood,
then bank, then angle toward us one last time.
Source: Poetry (March 2006)