by Sarah Ruden

My enemy had hatched her young,
Made real the heady boasts she’d sung,

And when I saw the cherished thing,
I vowed it would not fly or sing.

My talons tightened in its fluff.
Their points were digging deep enough

That blood and dung and shrieks sprang out
This wasn’t what I’d thought about

All those weeks in my moldy hollow.
No, by all rights it didn’t follow

That, blood to blood, its heart, my pulse
Battered each other. It convulsed

Against no claws or hard joints now
But two plain, helpless hands. Yet how

When, quickly as a lamp is lit,
It grew, then slashed and gouged and bit

Up in the harrow of the air
Was I to take my prey back there?

I struck, I buckled. He might know,
Who hung, millennia ago

From nails like mine but did not leave
Even the predator to grieve.

But where was He? Nothing below
Appeared but damp trees, ragged snow,

Dead reeds — a dead end like a cave;
Like smoke, for all the light it gave.

My wings were shriveling, but I
Must make my way through that cold sky

To somewhere that could hardly be,
With what I’d taken into me.

— From the September 2, 2013 issue of National Review.

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