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January 2016 vol 11 no 4

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Jonathan McKeown


hidden nest
somewhere within
the goshawk’s vigilance

It’s been nearly two months since it started swooping again. She’s chosen the same place for the second year in a row, though I still haven’t spotted the nest. Startled me out of my thoughts one morning while I was walking. Made two more low passes – the downdraft buffeting the hair on top of my head – before she was satisfied I was beyond her circle of care. Made me realise: a whole year has passed . . .

between past
and future
the goshawk swoops

I’ve taken to choosing a stick each time I approach her newly redefined territory, and to walking with it above my head like an antenna. On humid days I use it to cut away webs criss-crossing the track. For the first month or so it continues swooping despite my stick, but knowing the hawk’s renowned eyesight I figure this will discourage direct physical contact. I had hoped in time she would see I mean no threat, or sense my peaceful vibe, but it seems the instinct is so ingrained, so indiscriminate, she continues treating me as any common predator. Yet I persist undeterred, though somewhat warily, along the little bush trail where I have taken my morning walks for many years now.

another circle
around the sun
morning contrails

In the last week or so I have not been swooped. There’s been some blustery weather as late spring temperatures rise, and some big storms. Seeing the way the branches get thrashed about I wonder if her nest has been damaged or, a better fortune, if her young are already fledged. But I persist with my stick-choosing routine. Until today, when I figure it’s probably safe again and enter the realm unprotected. But some way in I feel suddenly uneasy and turn – the tilt of wings – aligning – and duck as the feathered whoop of her wings pass close to my head. I look up again and see her wheel and return to a branch high in a tall gum tree where she lets out an imperious piercing titter that makes her whole tail quiver.

Has she learnt the meaning of my stick? – That I am wary of her threats? – That it is an acknowledgement of her power? – Her surveillance? – The fear she inspires? – That today I need reminding?

editing a reply email
to my daughter’s mother
the willie wag-tail’s night call