Hurt Hawks, by Robinson Jeffers

Hurt Hawks


The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,

The wing trails like a banner in defeat,

No more to use the sky forever but live with famine

And pain a few days: cat nor coyote

Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons.

He stands under the oak-bush and waits

The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom

And flies in a dream, the dawns ruin it.

He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.

The curs of the day come and torment him

At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,

The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.

The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those

That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.

You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him;

Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;

Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember him.


I’d sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk; but the great redtail

Had nothing left but unable misery

From the bones too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed under his talons when he moved.

We had fed him for six weeks, I gave him freedom,

He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for death,

Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old

Implacable arrogance. I gave him the lead gift in the twilight. What fell was relaxed,

Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what

Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising

Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.



6 thoughts on “Hurt Hawks, by Robinson Jeffers

  1. As I sit here in tears, I’m not sure I want to thank you for them, but know I will not forget that poem. Anyone who has ever had to put down something they love knows that pain.

    • Aw, I’m sorry to make you cry…it reminded me of what it’s like to be injured and I have a friend right now who is injured. We were discussing how it’s harder to be injured when you define yourself by your physical strength. I love to run, when I can’t run what am I? It resonated, especially the line: “pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.”

  2. Even if you can’t run, you are a lovely person, full of curiosity, determination, and intelligence. You might love to run but you are so much more than that. Try not to limit yourself so much ok? But I will agree that it’s hard not to be able to do the things you are used to doing. It somehow makes you feel less yourself and more someone who is a stranger in your skin. I’m sorry about your friend, I hope they recover and go back to what they love. And don’t worry about tears they are just part of the day sometimes. It was a very memorable poem, and I thank you for that.

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