Issue 20 – Spring 2011 – Andrew Feld

Andrew Feld



What I wanted was a goshawk on my wrist,
A docile bit of wilderness in my care.
Her setting-sun red eye returned my stare.
Inside the cage I am a nurse, waiter
And janitor. Outside, an austringer. 
I searched for one all day in the forest. 
Now Chiefly poet. Now Shakes. Now sing. Now rare.  

I searched for one all day in the forest
So I could cross the bird off my life-list.
At the Center I fed her as you hold this
Poem: at a reading distance. The flared
Warning of her red eyes refuted my stare:
You will never cross me off your life-list.
Now rare. Now sing. Now Shakes. Now Chiefly poet.

You wanted a little bit of wilderness
Held docile on your wrist. What could be tamer
Than extinct? At the trail head, the profiled picture.
If you see this bird, call our 800- number. 
Because except what you allow me there
Is no wilderness, there is no wilderness.
Now Chiefly poet. Now Shakes. Now sing. Now rare.


The Test

     The California Hawking Club Apprentice Study Guide, Edited by Frederick W. Holderman.

1) True or false: Falconry hawks are trained to accept humans as their master and owner.
2) True or false: Hawks should not be made too tame but should be encouraged to retain their wild nature.

1) False. The point of falconry is to teach the hawk that hunting with one specific human leads to eating better than hunting alone in the wild. 
2) False. Tameness is a point of refinement in the art of falconry, and serves as a measure of the confidence and trust she has in you.

For months I was stuck in Eugene, 
      stalled on how in the five centuries 
   But they that somtyme lykt my companye 
Like lyse awaye from ded bodies thei crall: 
   But they that sometime liked my company 
Like lice away from dead bodies they crawl 
      the lice blanched into grains 
      of rice scattered around a body 
            only dressed to be killed, 
      and how these college towns depress 
your serotonin reuptake inhibitors,
     as the rain slows to a thick mist
and an air like Ambien gums up your neurons.

Match diseases with treatment:

           apoplexy          Flagyl/Spartrix
      bumblefoot          Pepto-Bismal/Pedialyte
              cramps          chelating agents
             frounce           sugar water
lead poisoning           sunlight/vitaminD3/vitamin B
            seizures           a variety of clean perches
          sour crop          ground up bones in food
        stargazing           a cool dark place and medical attention

Translate the following passage:

I went to the birds then, 
                  for a language archaic as needed
      and scientific as necessary,
                  for the shrill, screaming music
      they are, and their elaborate syntax 
                  of muscle and feather, 
      for the peregrine’s roused plumage 
                  in the mews as she bowses 
      from a bowl of bath water or how 
                  when she bates on my glove
      her slate gray-blue wings strobe
                  over her pale barred breast
      and her flying weight flutters
                  against the jesses, 
      for how the goshawk in yarak 
                  bows forward, as if straining
      against bad eyesight to read
                  the distance until slipped, 
      for how the Cooper’s hawk towers
                  over the field it is hard-wired to 
      as doves and robins sky-up, 
                  for how the red-tail of my
      apprenticeship after breaking in 
                  the cottontail she was wedded to, 
      returned to my fist 
                  to preen and to feak. 


Rouse, to: When a hawk stands all her feathers on end at once and gives them a rattling shake. A sign of well being. 
Mews: Any place where a hawk is kept at night or in bad weather. 
Bowse, to: Drinking by a hawk. Hence boozer and boozing. 
Bate, to: The wild jumping off and beating of wings while still held to perch or fist. May be caused by wildness, fright, boredom or plain temper.
Flying weight: The weight at which the hawk is healthy enough to fly and hunt, yet sufficiently hungry to respond to the falconer’s control. Also sharp set, keen and combat weight. 
Yarak: an Indian term describing a savage state of extreme readiness to kill. A hawk in yarak adopts a certain unique posture which makes it appear especially dangerous. 
Slip: A chance at quarry. To slip: to release a hawk in pursuit of quarry. 
Tower, to: when a hawk rings up into the air vertically.
Sky-up, to: When a flock of birds take to the air in a flurry to escape an accipiter. 
Break in: the act of breaking through a kill’s skin, usually starting at the soft underbelly.
Wedded to: When a hawk prefers one kind of quarry.
Preen: When a hawk straightens its feathers by oiling and dressing them.
Feak, to: When a hawk cleans her beak after feeding, wiping it briskly back and forth. A sign of great confidence if she will do this on your finger or glove.

For how the bird, my pleasure, my leisure, my captive, 
                   unhitches for a brief interval from my grasping

to serve as that tenuous arch linking us to the inaccessible
                   and then returns to my fist, for how their flat brains

stop our spinning projections into framed photographs, 
                    eyes packed with receptor cells, two and half times

more accurate than ours, half of the peregrine’s brown- 
                    black stare more than equal to my contemplation,

wild and reserved, remote even as she takes food from
                    my hand, the feet perfect for killing and carrying

the kill so we distinguish them by this excellence, and for 
                    this strange accord reached with a thing of the air,

that they can leave when they choose, but choose to stay.


Raptor: A Brief Lexicon

Falconry The falconer’s primary aspiration should be to possess
hunting birds that he has trained through his own ingenuity to capture 
the quarry he desires in the manner he prefers. The actual taking of
prey should be a secondary consideration.
                                     The Art of Falconry 
Gorge [(O)Fr. = throat f. Proto-Romance alt. of L gurges whirlpool.] 
1 The external throat; the front of the neck. arch. LME.2 The internal 
throat. Now only rhet. LME. 3 Orig. inFalconry, (the contents of) 
the crop of a hawk. Now gen., the contents of the stomach (chiefly in 
phrs. below). LME. s 4 A meal, esp. (in Falconry) for a hawk. Long rare.
          My falcon now is sharp and passing empty, 
          And till she stoop she must not be full-gorg’d 
                   The Taming of the Shrew (4.1. 177-178). 
Haggard 1 Of a hawk: caught after having assumed its adult plumage; 
wild, untamed. fig. a wild, intractable person. of plumage: ragged. rare.
If I do prove her haggard, 
          Though that her jesses were my dear heartstrings, 
          I’d whistle her off and let her down the wind 
          To prey at fortune. 
                   Othello (3.3.259-62) 
Jesses. n . Narrow straps of leather attached to a hawk’s legs, by which she 
is held. When on the fist these leather straps are held between the fingers. 
Mute Of a bird, esp. a hawk: discharge (faeces), the action of defecating 
by a bird, esp. a hawk; sing & in pl. (a deposit of) faeces, droppings. 
Peregrine Of the peregrine (implicitly female), Turbervile (1575) notes: 
           the seconde [after the falcon gentle in a list] is the Haggart 
           Falcon, whiche is otherwise tearmed the Peregrine Falcon. 
“Peregrine” is strongly adjectival here, meaning in effect (according to 
this writer) from unknown or distant parts, or wanderer, or (oddly) 
suggestive of “beautie and excellencie.” 
Raptor [L, f. as RAPT a.: see –OR] 1 Ornith. bird of prey S.V. BIRD n. 
LME. 2 A plunderer, a robber. LME-E18. See Rapt: Long poet. rare. 
1 Carry away by force. L16 2 Transport in spirit; enrapture. Removed from 
one place or situation to another. Now poet. 
Seeling                     Come seeling night, 
           Scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day. 
                    Macbeth (3.2.46-47) 
Tercel or GENTLE n. Also spelled tassel Shakes. The male of any variety 
of hawk, as distinguished from the female, generally called falcon. The name 
is probably derived from the belief that the former is one third smaller 
than the latter.




Andrew Feld is assistant professor of English at the University of Washington and the author of Citizen (2003), winner of the National Poetry Series prize and the “Discovery”/The Nation award.