There must be a collective noun
for hawk-watchers on a mountain.
Drove? Paddling? Sloth? Bask? Clowder?
Mostly men in late middle age,
beards and baseball caps, sporting
binoculars and spotting scopes
worth more than my house. We note
their focus, their fixation on dots
barely discernible from cloud
above the gloomy neighboring peak.
You’re impressed that they believe
that at such terrible distance
they can sort broad-shouldered
from red-tail hawk. You admit
you can hardly tell a hawk from
a handsaw, but we agree that
effete literary allusions
have no place amid the krummholz
and exposed granite ledge,
no currency with hawk-watchers
guzzling bottled water and gazing
into the misty ephemera
to mark their count on the board.
I’m surprised to see osprey
listed among the aeronauts
counted for the sake of counting.
You’re startled to note peregrines
among the various raptors,
since you thought them European.
We’re all friends in the bird-world,
fellow travelers in the blue.
That blue today is cloud-marbled
with an elegant texture absorbing
the long arcs of flight. The shadows
cast by the clouds shuffle across
the wooded landscape below us.
We agree that even if merged
our eyesight wouldn’t allow us
to join the count. Eleven hundred
birds so far this season, each
a construction so elaborate
nothing human can approach it,
our most agile acts of intellect
still falling well short of flight.