There’s a hawk in my backyard. She’s dark and broad and patient, and she sits in the same tree, on the same branch, in the same spot, hour after hour, day after day. She perches and she waits and nothing ever changes her mind. Sometimes the wind races through the yard and sometimes it pours down rain. The hawk’s feathers might ruffle and lift and resettle, but she stays so still, and she watches.
Her movements were precise and efficient and repetitive. She didn’t lift her wings or reposition her feet, and she never scanned her surroundings to see who may have been encroaching.”
I watch her from my spot at the kitchen window, from the same place to the left of the sink, planted there like a weed grown from the scruffy wood floor, and I watch her.
Sometimes I move to the family room, where I open the wood-slat blinds and tuck my legs up under me in the corner of the sectional, and I face out, and I watch the hawk watch the yard.
This afternoon, while scrubbing bacon grease out of my favorite red skillet, I looked up and saw movement near the tree, on the beveled top of a dull gray fence post. She was there, legs rigid above clenched talons, her feathers plucking windward into the air around her as she lowered her head and pinched hard with her hooked beak and yanked up, sharp, stretching red raw flesh, stretching it taut and snapping it before swallowing it down. Her movements were precise and efficient and repetitive. She didn’t lift her wings or reposition her feet, and she never scanned her surroundings to see who may have been encroaching.
It occurred to me that her meal had been breathing and warm — alive with rapid heartbeats — only moments before, and I was grateful that I hadn’t seen her dive, sharp like a bullet from her spot on the branch of the tree, that I had missed the chaotic shock of one, and the unblinking, resolute accomplishment of the other, that I hadn’t heard a shriek or a scream.
Not a twitter.
Later, when my red skillet was drying — propped up in its usual place on the spindly dish rack on the green and white striped tea towel — I glanced up and saw my hawk in her usual place and I wondered if I went outside, if I tiptoed through the muddy frozen grass and stood straight and tall under the bare red oak, would I see the stain of blood seeping into the rotting wood of the fence that separates me from the other side?
And would she watch me as I did?
Marie DeLean lives in Chicago with her husband, two children, and a bearded dragon named Harold. A former marketing executive, fine art photographer, and aspiring writer, she spends a significant amount of her free time staring into the backyard while waiting for winter to end. When not writing, she likes to travel to faraway lands and take long naps in sunny spots.
Photo by Annie Spratt.