Saturday, April 11, 2015

Eight Lessons in Training a Goshawk

photo credit: Chris O'Reilly

First, I had to become invisible,
so she could learn to accept me.
We sat the difficult, patient,
excruciating hours together,
her hooded, at times, for calmness,
my eyes averted,
until she could be with me unmasked,
without fear.

Next, I had to make her hunger,
so when I offered food 
on my extended fist
she would come to me.
This was a dance that took some time
to choreograph.

I did not know,
until she laughed,
that goshawks were capable
of play.

We walked the hill to the field in dread,
her on my arm,
she because she was terrified,
I because I feared
she'd fly away.

The hardest thing to learn
was trusting
she'd return.

It took many fails a day
for a week,
her falling, hobbled,
to the ground,
angry and glaring,
and then we got it right -
she flew right to me.

In the brambles,
her first time loose,
caught by the bracken,
her yellow eyes
looked to me
for rescue. Trust.

I thought I was training her
to be a goshawk,
but she was teaching me
to unite my wild and human parts,
until my spirit rose

from its bed of grief
and flew.

for Grace's prompt at Real Toads: to write a poem in the style of, or inspired by, Wallace Stevens. I loved his Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird so much that I tried to echo his format, though likely I am no where near his style. As I am currently reading a most wonderful book, H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald, about the training of a goshawk, I stuck with birds.

Day 12 of the poem a day April challenge


  1. We are intricately tied to those we try to master--as you not in your ending. I know this is a skill, but it made me bleed and sweat under the hood ... I think you've caught one edge of the Wallace Stevens starkly and exquisitely.

  2. Hi Susan, this poem spoke to me where you are a nice past friend of mine on our first meeting where I played the shy and her being you in this poem trying all those tactics to get me to open up to her. thanks for the great read this Sunday early early morn. I'm back btw.

  3. learning is always a bliss specially when it comes the style of looking at something in so many ways...

  4. This is a new favourite poem for me, Sherry. I love how you narrowed the process down to the succinct parts, creating such a powerful focal point on the bird.

    Last year, when I watched a demonstration of raptors flying, the handler said, If they don't come back, we call it a successful reintroduction to the wild.

  5. Beautiful lessons for a city girl like me Sherry ~ I have never seen such a demo or training of goshwak ~ The last one struck me, for the ultimate learning of uniting the wild and tame side, for the spirit to fly once more ~ A gem to read this morning ~

    Thanks for participating with Sunday's Challenge and wishing you Happy Sunday ~

  6. Beautiful. I love how each part of the poem shows the build up of the connection between narrator and the bird. I love part VII especially, that trust and connection is so special and so precious.

  7. What a wonderful piece. A closely lied pattern, of learning much like the hawk and th falconer both learning for me.

  8. A very memorable poem Sherry :D
    I have learned so much from this...!!
    Its written beautifully :D

  9. luv the humility of this verse

    The hardest thing to learn
    was trusting
    she'd return.

    have a nice Sunday; thanks for dropping in at my Sunday Lime

    much love...

  10. This is beautifully done, Sherry.

  11. This is an exquisite reminder that we are all connected (again) - you thought you were teaching her, but she was also teaching you. I love your way with words, Sherry! Love!

  12. being still before the natural world... blending in... you captured it, plus more

  13. I recently visited Dubai and saw where they train and care for falcons which enabled me to understand this more deeply. You bring us back to the oneness of all creatures.

  14. VII is wonderful. I could picture the trust in her eyes. How awesome would it be to really train one.

  15. Such a cool process and wonderful to relay in a poem-- a very interesting subject. Thanks, Sherry. k.

  16. Love the confusion between trainer and trainee.

  17. ALL of them are amazing...3, 5, and 8 struck me personally and I just love, love the development of the sacred. Beautiful work, Sherry!

  18. These are amazing Sherry. You definitely captured the tone of Wallace Stevens.

  19. So often we learn more than the one we teach from that experience. Their is a great sense of kinship here as well.

  20. This is delicious! I clapped when I read the last stanza. Maybe, I flew a little... wildly. :-D

  21. I liked this immensely, Sherry. Good job.
    Poor little thing, she couldn't make it on her own without the hobbles. She had become dependent upon you (the writer).
    We don't have goshawks here, but we have other hawks and vultures. They are huge birds and I love to watch the soar.

  22. Bravo, Sherry! This one is so vivid and beautifully done and yet haunts~ The last stanza makes me cheer!

  23. That's truly marvellous Sherry, the way you have managed to put an entire experience in eight stanzas! Was a pretty damn lucky hawk too!


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Thank you so much. I will be over to see you soon!