Sharp Shinned Hawk

Hawk Cover

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.

          (for Leonard Crow Dog)

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


             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
            in your feathered cloak
                one whole night.
             Come inside our body.


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.


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,
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.