Three Poems By Dan Campion

The Red-Tailed Hawk

The oak from which the red-tailed hawk flew stands
mouse-gray and leafless, plainly lifeless, years
from when the red-tail perched there. Time expands
like spreading wings as red-leaved autumn nears.
I see a bird of prey—now prey no doubt
to dissolution down to bones and claws
and beak—still leaping to its prowl about
the woods, as if it outlived nature’s laws.
For all I know, someone is watching me
and will recall an old man stop and stare,
an oak snag in his line of sight, and be
perplexed why I had stopped when nothing’s there.
The hawk is there, each feather, piercing eye,
and rush into the air, wingtips raised high.

The laws against entrapment don’t protect
poor Hamlet nor poor Huckleberry, much
less Shelley’s cloud. All, snared by intellect,
are doing time, entirely out of touch
with that wide, weightless realm they knew before,
uncaptured thought. We can’t begin to say
how much they’ve lost, how great it was to soar
completely free of us. Not even they
remember, now that they’re in custody.
Across the yard, Ophelia sings of rue,
and Emmeline pretends she doesn’t see
the future. But she does, its limbs askew.
Doomsayers say it will get worse. Of course—
for us—as thoughts, set free, rejoin their source.

Though Chimborazo waits, and Everest,
I’m not in any shape to make a climb.
However, I can free-climb with the best
while sipping gin and tonic touched with lime.
My expedition starts when I wake up,
congratulate myself that I’m still here,
get out of bed, and fill my coffee cup,
ignore the paper’s news of hate and fear,
and shuffle over to my writing chair.
Whatever peak I summon up in mind,
from base camp chores to summiting, I’m there,
warm, safe, my funds intact, my face unlined.
Much later, at the bar, I’ll drink with you,
and share, from when we’ve been aloft, the view.

Dan Campion is the author of A Playbill for Sunset (2022) and Peter De Vries and Surrealism (1995) and co-editor of Walt Whitman: The Measure of His Song (1981, 2nd ed. 1998, 3rd ed. 2019). Dan’s poetry has appeared previously in Grand Little Things and in Able Muse, Light, Poetry, Rolling Stone, Think, and many other magazines. A selection of his poems titled The Mirror Test will be published by MadHat Press in 2023.

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