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Nighthawks, a poem by Tory Pearman


House on a hill, Edward Hopper sky:

the nighthawks circle the roof ridge,

cryptic plumes mottled gray and black

like ash bark. A white flash blazes

as their wings rise and dip 

in the dim half-light between night

and morning. Everything in this house

grieves. Ghostly shadows peer out

windows as if trying to leave

the mourning that hovers in the air 

thick as gravestone moss. 

Outside, the hawks, now erratic,

look like bats as their sharp, electric

peent buzzes, halted only by a boom

when one and then another and then another

circles high above the eaves and then dives 

steeply, hurtling toward the earth,

a sullen plunge saved only by a graceful, 

long-winged looping that pitches

back up to the heavens. The unrelenting

hum of buzz, boom, swish cloaks

the rooftop like a shroud,

pounds against the rafters and lintels,

then stops suddenly. The front-porch door

swings into the silence, and we watch them

carry your shrouded body to the open

wings of the hearse. The hawks roost

motionless along the maple branch, 

now almost invisible in their perch,

and watch, too, as the car descends

the gravel drive, drifting into daybreak

until vanished. With a swoosh, the birds

take flight, head toward the river,

where they will swoop low, skim

a drink from the surface, wetting

their feathers in a baptismal spray 

that settles into their rictal bristles

and evaporates as the flock disperses.

Nightjar, goatsucker, chuck-will’s-widow,

each bird now a lone shadow in the sky.

Like us, they have no nest to fly home to, 

only a shallow depression in the dirt,

shaded by stone.

Tory Pearman
resides with her family in Cincinnati, OH, where she teaches literature and writing. Her work appears or is forthcoming in journals like Moss Puppy, Cheat River Review, Salamander, Atticus Review, and San Pedro River Review. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee.