Migraine Genuflection; Hawk, Released
By: James Swansbrough
I just chased holy bread with BC powder and V8
to celebrate Christ’s resurrection with a hangover.
Later I’ll eat lamb with family—symbolism of the Son
stops at Greek gullets.
: Rewind :
I served in the altar from age eight, but did not learn
He died on a Friday until I was thirteen. I would spy on the congregation’s
blind faith through the wrought-iron altar, while I served at my Father’s side,
young and ignorant.
At sixteen I realized that as last to drink from the Communal chalice,
I could contract the diseases of all: Mr. Constantine’s flu, Mrs. Petrou’s bronchitis,
little Demetri Papadakis’ hand-foot-mouth, Etceteras.
I guess my faith kept me healthy all those years.
I grew older and less fatigued by extensive standing, but played
the same attention games: staring contests with the icons, word jumbles
with the gospel reading, counting tassel threads on my robe sash.
Adolescence did not unclog my ears.
: Forward :
Last night, Presvyetera sported a moustache and two bratty children
that tugged on her and made faces at their elders. The choir miscued
their Christos Anesti hymns, and we stood up twelve times in two hours,
but I think once we jumped the gun.
I left after Communion to drink beer and boxed wine with friends.
I saw Mr. Darras at the Chevron, and he sanctioned my celebration.
Now that’s a communion! Christ is Risen!
Truly He is risen, I replied
and absconded into the night with my sacrament.
I tested the spirits well into Easter morn,
and they were of God.
Thus we learned how embarrassment does not fall within
the Mission Statement of altruistic wild bird rehabilitators,
that they could not be faulted for what transpired at the
conservation festival’s preeminent event, the raptor release:
A red-tailed hawk, impossibly large, extricated talons-first
from its diminutive cage like an inverted pterodactyl;
Clutched forth into the amazed circle of gawkers by the
leather-gloved rescuer in mimicry of medieval falconer;
Uprighted for photos—wing-beaten pollen motes aswirl in the air—
and enduring the crowd’s fascination with its restoration tale;
Plumage ruffled as it was upended again, head darting for egress,
to undergo the pomp of banding for the USGS and Department of Interior;
Disdainful of its captors’ explanation for the aluminum anklet and the import
of learning the predator’s migratory path through the world someday hence.
How proudly it disregarded all of us, craving flight with such will that it was
only a surprise to the handlers when even the largest band would not fit,
as though Nature had in the penultimate moment spurned human efforts
at observing Its secrets even for posterity, however passively and painlessly.
And so, as a forlorn child might watch her lost balloon rise into the aether,
the caretakers of this mended raptor surrendered it to the sky
with hands held aloft a bit too long, perhaps— empty, supplicant—
and we all knew they would never commune with their charge again.
James Swansbrough received his BA from Davidson College and MFA from The University of the South. His poetry is forthcoming in Cagibi. He resides in Signal Mountain, Tennessee, with his wife and two daughters, and runs a commercial HVAC/Refrigeration company, at least until his daughters’ unicorn-breeding business takes off.