C.N.P Poetry 

  • Cathexis Northwest Press

Migraine Genuflection; Hawk, Released

By: James Swansbrough


Migraine Genuflection


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.




Hawk, Released


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.