Like the Evening News

by Joan Murray Issue: Spring 2018
Just after sunrise, and Jim’s already in the kitchen
while I’m brooding in bed like an imitation poet,
staring out at the sulky morning, the unmelted
snow, the circle of idle trees that remind me
where the pond used to be, though it’s April now—
until Jim comes shouting up the stairs:
“Go to the window!” he says.

Below me on the snow crust, a hawk’s come down,
one wing outstretched, the other around what?—
the grey-brown tail feathers sticking out
reveal a mourning dove in a ring of spattered blood—
like a crime scene on a primetime show—
while the parliamentary birds, taking cover on all sides,
pour out their programmed protests.

The hawk’s turreted eye, as forbidding as
God’s on the dollar bill, projects a threat,
it’s in no hurry, whatever it is doing
is done efficiently beneath the composure of that wing.
I don’t even think to rap the glass. My eye transfixed
by its eye forbids me. I am studying it, I tell myself,
labeling my complicity as industry.

“A hawk and a dove.” I’m surprised at how belatedly
the old phrase arrived—though it’s hardly “a dove,”
being grey or slightly brown, either way, of little value
in the Western catalog. And yet how irresistibly
that phrase is taking over, like an evening-news byte
or a late-night joke, focusing on itself, removing
itself from what I’m witnessing now: 

as the thing lifts itself—both of its bodies,
all four of its wings—imperial, unquestioning,
fueling itself as it goes, while I stare at
“the blood on the snow” till my bare feet, cold now,
take me back to bed, the phrases in my head
subduing what I’ve seen into something familiar,
accommodated, consumed.

Joan Murray

Joan Murray’s five poetry volumes include Looking for the Parade (W. W. Norton), which Robert Bly chose as winner of the National Poetry Series; Queen of the Mist (Beacon), for which she received a Broadway Commission; and Swimming for the Ark: New & Selected Poems 1990-2015, the inaugural title in White Pine Press’s Distinguished Poets Series. A two-time National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship winner, she is the editor of the Pushcart Book of Poetry.