Friday, July 27, 2012

Poetry Friday -- Hawku



The hawks are whistling.
Every morning I listen,
wonder, imagine.

The nest, constructed
in a pignut hickory,
is hidden and safe.


Hawks in the city
remind us we are not far
from the wild. Ever.

Are they as aware
of me as I am of them?
I capture moments:

Whistling and screeing,
piercing dives through tree branches,
perching on our fence.


Every hope broken --
hickory falls in the storm.
Hawk home is destroyed.

Morning after. Sun.
Mournful hawks call tree to tree,
"Our babies...lost...gone."

I hear, on day two...
three hawks! Three means one survived!
Next day I see four!


Listen -- can you hear
hawks in your neighborhood trees?
Listen with your heart.

Wonder -- they survive:
paramount in the food chain,
tree top predators.

Imagine -- next year
another nest, another success...
perhaps in your oak.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2012

The Coopers Hawks in this story have been a source of fascination and wonder since last spring, when they courted noisily in the sky above our neighborhood, and then began building their nest in our neighbor's tree. They broke twigs from our oak tree for that nest. 

Late last June, as we drove home through the lashing winds and torrential rains of a severe thunderstorm, my thoughts were focused on our oak. "Please spare our oak, please spare our oak," was my mantra.

At the end of our street, we saw flashing red lights. When we got closer, I breathed a sigh of relief -- it was not our oak -- then gasped. It was not our oak; it was our neighbor's huge hickory, torn out of the ground and split lengthwise. Two homes were destroyed -- our neighbor's house, and the hawks' nest.

I have pages of notes and several drafts of poems about the hawks, but I wanted to try to tell the whole story in one poem. I was inspired by Violet Nesdoly's extended haiku about the storm, and wanted to try that form. Violet explains, "I call this an extended haiku but perhaps it isn’t one by an official definition (which I couldn’t find). Anyway, what’s happening here is that each word in the original haiku becomes the beginning word in successive haiku. It’s a fun challenge."

At the Choice Literacy writer's retreat this week, we had a minilesson on using a B-C-B-A narrative structure in our article writing. (A = near future, B = present, C = past.) When I looked back at my first draft of this poem, I realized that I had intuitively used at least a version of this structure, shifting back and forth in time. I added the four Acts to help the reader transition between the different "chapters" of the story.

One of the hardest things about this form is that first haiku. You need rich words with which to start each of the successive haikus, and which allow you to tell your story. As with all writing, the last hard thing is a strong ending. I struggled with the ending, but Violet was gracious enough to read my draft and give me some writerly nudges. Thank you, Violet!

Bibliophile has the roundup this week at Life is Better With Books.


  1. Oh, I love that "pignut hickory"!

  2. This is terrific, Mary Lee. Thank you for telling us the story behind it (I had seen part but not all of it on FB) and for sharing the mini-lesson and the idea of the extended haiku. What a fun challenge! I am going to want to try this one soon!

    I esp love the detail of the pignut hickory and this:

    Hawks in the city
    remind us we are not far
    from the wild. Ever.

  3. What a privilege to share in this creatively rendered story, Mary Lee. Amazing survival skills. We frequently have red-shouldered hawks and a red-tailed hawk or two on our (their?!) property, and lately I've seen and heard a broad-winged hawk too. Magnificent creatures.

    (Continued thoughts for your neighbors in the loss of their home.)

  4. Whistling and screeing,
    piercing dives through tree branches,
    perching on our fence.

    This is my favorite stanza--it is so noisy and filled with action! I enjoyed your explanations of the extended haiku form. Nice job!

  5. Fabulous, Mary Lee! As a sometimes birder myself, I can so appreciate your involvement with that hawk. I loved the photos, alerting me to the reality of it all. Nice last stanza *grin.* I'm with Diane and her partiality to the "Whistling and screeing" lines. What a great word - 'screeing'! (And thanks for the kind mention :)


  6. In our neighborhood we get hawks, falcons, and once even a bald eagle at the bust stop. I love listening to their "[w]histling and screeing" and watching their "piercing dives through tree branches".
    Your extended haiku is really beautiful.

  7. Mary Lee,

    Well done, Mary Lee! I love your poem and your story about the hawks.

  8. Hi, Mary Lee. The pignut hickory got me, too. This is a wonderful way to tell a story in short scenes. I have a local friend, poet Kay Weeks, who uses senryu series to journal on her blog.

    We have redtail hawks in our neighborhood. I'll have to send you my Hawk Ode -- written to a young hawk who visited us on a snowy day.

  9. I'm relieved the babies survived! I love "hawku" -- "haiku" lends itself so well to play. I can imagine this story in a picture book. What do you think?

  10. This is really cool. Sort of an acrostic on steroids. Thanks for sharing! -Ed

  11. This is wonderful! The haikus, the picking up of words in the first poem, a hawk story, and the excellent name "Hawku." I love your ending--I like how you bring the story into the possibility of the reader's own reality.

  12. Wonderful, Mary Lee. I love Violet's form & you added much to it as well with the 'acts' and the title 'hawku'. I can imagine your grief & worry over the fallen nest. We have kestrels raise babies each year, & one year a baby seemed week & while we tried, could not save it. I have pictures of it nestled down by a shrub, & we knew it wouldn't last the night. Your beautiful words brought this all back. Thank you!


  14. You have certainly captured some wonderful moments here. Fascinating to observe these hawks as you have and to wonder if they notice you as well. Thanks for some great reading.

  15. Great title, great poem!

  16. Thank you, Mary Lee. It is a gift every time I read it.

  17. It's as wonderful now as the first time I read it... the structure and word choice is amazing!


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