Sharp Shinned Hawk
Poems by Roger Dunsmore ©1987
Title poem nominated for a Pushcart Prize by the Koyukon writer, the late Mary Tallmountain.
Published by Blackberry Books Nobleboro, Maine, 1987 chapbook.
THE SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (for Leonard Crow Dog) I The sharp-shinned hawk dips into the dried grasses sits awhile, lifts off, twists back down, wing-flutter motion, tail spread, tail flutter too, veers off gliding the field dips down, flutter wings flutter tail speckled-light-flicker suspended in no wind, many times the field. Already we have seen the mountain bluebirds, the orange-cloaked maybe oriole (fence post to ground to fence post), already the white-tailed deer flashing in timber and orange fungus-cup, jelly-like on a stick. Now this hawk, these quick turns of tail, wing, neck, this want inside the body: dance the sharp-shinned hawk in your feathered cloak one whole night. Come inside our body. II When the medicine man speaks at the university they find him incoherent. He moves cleanly as a sharp-shinned hawk in a spring field. He talks of studying late-night, feathers or rock. He tells of the clown-stone cold as a blizzard all through his body. Only three of them dared touch it in the open palm of the sacred clown. (The way his wrists move, the way his body pulls the bow, that time he turned while speaking and tested the soft, foam-board walls, gently pushing against their smoothness the way the sharp-shinned hawk turned in the field.) There are coherences of the mind, the body, coherences of the breath or lips, way out beyond this English, this talk with which we jam our hearts. The philosophy professor makes fun of the sharp-shinned hawk. He does not believe a man's mind can move like that-- like feathers or spider webs, coherent as winter grass. III They phone the Dean, to tell me, before I introduce him again, "Be sure and say he's never been to school so he won't reinforce old stereotypes." They are afraid his hawk-dance English gives Indians a bad name. Let go of your left-brain, logic-chop, mind-excuse. This is no de-clawed Kodiak bear, muzzled, wrestling would-be men at the Trading Post Saloon, a Pepsi Cola for a pin. They give instructions to remove the claws of the bear with their pinchers, their tweezers of the mind. They are afraid of the sharp-shinned beauty dancing the bones of the man in the lecture hall. There are coherence of the wrist, the lips, coherences of the breath (hawk feathers and dried grasses) far out beyond this English, this five thousand years, with which we jam our minds.