Alison Stine

The Rescue

He brought birds, the man from the rescue:
falcon with snipped wing; hawk with hollow
for its eye, a hole sealed over, feathers filled
in. A man did this, he said. A bullet. Lead
pupil, thumb-pinched. Birds get tangled
in the wires of our telephones. Birds get
tangled in our father’s traps, and the dotted
path of our brothers’ guns, and if we find
them, they are done for, their mothers not
returning. To listen how he fed them rats.
To listen how the falcon would never fly,
would live its days hopping in the leaf-spilled
enclosure, straining for rat-bits, sunning
its wings. To raise our hands when he asked
for a volunteer; and then to wait on our knees
while he chose her, shaking girl, girl shaking
at the front of the classroom. He sheltered
her in leather, a rough smock. He walked
to the other end of the room with his cage,
and told her to raise her hand, and told us
to close our eyes, and before we did, we saw
her waver, the thin limb extended, buffeted,
a branch. And then there was darkness,
no sound, the rush of wings only as the owl
was released, no sound as it flew above us,
no sound as it hunted mice, no sound in the room
except for the room, no sound in the night
except for the night, no sound from the owl
except when it landed, we heard the girl whisper, her no.