As you may have guessed, I was once again overcome by graduate school…
In honor of the downward spiral that is the end of semester, I am sharing a poem I am reading about and writing on in my Animal Narratives class.
By Robinson Jeffers
The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat,
No more to use the sky forever but live with famine
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons.
He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom
And flies in a dream, the dawns ruin it.
He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,
The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.
You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember him.
I’d sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk; but the great redtail
Had nothing left but unable misery
From the bones too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed under his talons when he moved.
We had fed him for six weeks, I gave him freedom,
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for death,
Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old
Implacable arrogance. I gave him the lead gift in the twilight. What fell was relaxed,
Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.
Robinson Jeffers, “Hurt Hawks” from The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, edited by Tim Hunt. Copyright © 1938 by Robinson Jeffers, renewed 1966 and © Jeffers Literary Properties. With the permission of Stanford University Press, http://www.sup.org.
Jeffers descriptive, fierce, and compassionate writing about the incapacitation and death of hawk seems to reach far beyond the initial description. As a tired, overwrought, over written, over read, and under slept graduate student, I connect with the pain of feeling incapacitated, of once feeling strong and prepared, and at the end wishing for better days. Thankfully, my semester will have an anticlimactic ending of writing term papers, taking finals, grading term papers, and grading finals; all followed by a brief rest before starting summer classes and comprehensive exam preparation. None the less, Robinson Jeffers made me feel less alone in this struggle today, and made me thankful for what often feels like an anticlimactic ending to the semester.