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I hunted with a Falconer
And his famed predators, Hawk, and owl Odin.
In a vast field lined with oaks and red maples.
Open space, with deep bramble thickets,
A perfect place for raptors and rabbits.

Loosed by the Falconer
Into the spright and lively air of near Christmas
The birds circled, then came to rest in the boughs of trees.
Ancient eyes alight with interest.
Harsh exultant cries upon the air.
Rabbits froze in dread - our job to flush them out.

The Falconer explained: they had to be trained to this.
Carefully. Gently.
Else they'd take to their natural freedom.
But on his wrist, covered with heavy gauntlet,
they'd found choice meat.
Easier come-by meat. And companionship, of sorts.
Well cared-for, hunger unknown.

What is freedom compared to that?
The welcome carrion or blooded meat,
A trade: hood and jesses and gauntlet
For the lift of the updraft
The large, fierce, long-sighted view of the world?

The raptors hunt with swift and certain grace.
The hunt makes amends for the chains.

Patricia Neill 1999

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05 June, 1999