By Susan Yanos
From the kitchen window I watch as
doves waddle clown-like round puddles of corn
spilled near the grain pit, then fly into vents
gaping on bins, or from guy wire to wire
like trapeze artists with toes reaching sure
for lines stretched taut from grain leg to the ground.
No net below.
As I go about my chores, I hear them
inside the bins, invisible feathers
whispering against metal walls. When I
straighten from pulling weeds in the garden, mind
elsewhere, their cooing warbles me back: dirt
smudged on knees, green juice staining fingertips,
sweat at hairline.
Sometimes they wheel above barns and house, gray
discs in the sun. Flying rats, our hand mutters, and begs
to shoot at them, tired of smeared windshields and
levers. This year an albino has bred
white under dusty plumage of its kin.
Over our farm’s endless browns and dull greens,
their beauty wings.
They were the first to die after the hawk
moved in. Our black-and-tan found a carcass
in the yard and brought it to the back door, bloodied
white feathers fringing her mouth. Yesterday
I found another near the chicken coop,
eyeless. I check the latch before I leave,
scanning the sky.
Now no birds clown round the grain pit nor coo
from the wires. Feeders near windows sit full;
suet cakes hang whole in the lilacs since all
finches and cardinals abandoned us. I
must do my chores with no feather to change
my sight, wondering why it is I fed
doves, drawing hawk.
Today a shape appeared in the lilac’s
belly: a bag blown in by night, I thought,
or rotted garbage. But it turned, revealing
beak hooked and smooth, and looked at me. Though I
looked hard, I could not see beyond those eyes.
Not moving, its talons gut my tamed truths,
expose my soul.
Susan Yanos is the author of The Tongue Has No Bone, a book of poems, and Woman, You Are Free: A Spirituality for Women in Luke; and is co-editor and co-author of Emerging from the Vineyard: Essays by Lay Ecclesial Ministers. Her poems, essays and articles have appeared in several journals. A former professor of writing, literature and ministry of writing, she now serves as a spiritual director, retreat leader and freelance editor. She lives with her husband on their farm in east-central Indiana (US), where she creates art quilts and tends to her hens, fruit trees and gardens.
'God Who Sent the Dove Sends the Hawk' was first published in Saint Katherine Review before appearing in The Tongue Has No Bone.