With raptors on all sides, how did humans come
to imagine rapture as sanctuary? Even in Bible
verses, being rapt—harpazo—means to be snatched,
seized, caught up. Less comfort than cataclysm.
Last month, a sharp-shinned hawk swooped past me, diving
through a neighbor’s rhododendrons to grasp
a jeering blue jay out of its illusions
of safety on a leafy branch. The jay’s weight
slowed the hawk’s rise, twisting its trajectory,
swinging it close to my own steps, its wingtips
inches from my eyes, prey dangling from lowered legs
as those wings scooped air, laboriously climbing.
Last week, a Cooper’s hawk rifled the broad branches
of my neighbor’s dogwood, summoned by the rustle
of robins feasting on dogwood drupes, themselves turned feast.
Today: a red-shouldered hawk lands on the corner
of my deck, stares at me through kitchen windows,
trapping me in a gaze that shapes its own piercing
plunging dive. I struggle to take in the pale grey
head, implacable; the long white chest speckled
with brown, breast slightly puffed, drawn up, as it pauses,
perches, eyeing the chipmunk in its tomato-pot
sanctuary. I blink and the raptor’s gone.
Betsy Bolton’s work has appeared in The Hopper: Environmental Lit. Poetry. Art, and New Croton Review and is forthcoming in Split Rock Review, Minnow Literary Magazine, Northern Appalachian Review, Snapdragon, and Gyroscope. Her chapbook Mouth Art of the Bald-faced Hornet was longlisted for the Kingdoms in the Wild Annual Poetry Prize. Betsy teaches at Swarthmore College, on Lenape land, at the edge of the Piedmont and the coastal plain. For more information, see betsydotgallery.wordpress.com.