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April 2018, vol 14 no 1

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Elizabeth Alford

No Sudden Movements

He saw me, and yet he did not.

We stared at each other for a minute, perhaps two. Me in my straightforward way: eyes fixed, body rigid with attention; he in his, as a bird does: in the cock of the head at any sound, every movement, whether breeze or leaf, bug or blink; one eye on me and one on the rest of the world, never missing a thing but missing everything.

He saw me, and yet he did not.

He knows one thing: something (deep in his ancestral blood, in the pockets of his hollow bones, in the way muscles tense sharply towards flight or fight) tells him I am a two-legged creature, a taloned and unpredictable predator, a towering beast from which to keep safe distance. Still or not, he is cautious by nature, and to him I am danger.

He saw me, and yet he did not, because of one thing he cannot know: I would have willingly stood in that spot, quiet as a nestling in the shadows; that I might admire him forever, adorned with regal feathers and dark, dewy eyes sparkling in the sun; content to watch the gentle curve of his black beak move in time to his musical mutterings, until he was quite satisfied with what he saw in me, and fluttered away to tend to his own business.

cardboard sign
commuters stare
at the red light