Poetry: Birdwatching in the Flint Hills

I wrote this poem yesterday after visiting the Flint Hills in Kansas. I went to watch birds. I suppose the title told you most of that, making this introduction largely unnecessary. What I really want to say is don’t give up. The future is waiting, with its soil and stone and grass — and its small but exquisite animals, one of which is you.


Birdwatching in the Flint Hills

Across the street from a limestone ranch house
at the edge of the tallgrass prairie, a northern harrier

spreads her wings like two rugs being shaken out
before being rolled away for the winter.

She flies just above a shorn field, hunting
with her ears. Mice can’t help but rustle

among the stalks. Clouds block the light
and cold becomes colder. This morning,

we turned our clocks back one hour
then drove two to be here. It’s the closest

we’ll get to time travel, sixty coveted minutes
in which everything can be forgiven because

nothing happens. The harrier dives and emerges
with empty talons. Behind us, the house’s

mansard roof flashes like a courting prairie chicken.
Below, grasses clutch loess soil in strong winds.

The bird has lost her prey. The day has slipped
from its lead. The sky is already starting to bleed.