Isolde on the Shoulder of St. Andrew

Isolde on the Shoulder of St. Andrew

Revelations 19:17 – And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God. 

I am she, that red-tail hawk, flashy with hook,
flaunting bravado, pledging the full-fledged
love of raptors, a monogamy of nest.
Binoc-ogling onlookers down there
on Morningside Drive called me Isolde
and my first mate, Tristan. He died.

Our stars crossed at the nest we built on the west
face of the cathedral of St. John the Divine –
on St. Andrew’s marble shoulder, chosen
over the host of others – his welcome
to share the loaves and fishes, his saltire,
a barricade, holding our twigs and branches.
Perched on a parapet, Tristan guarded sunsets.

After Tristan, Norman, until Hurricane Sandy.
Those below admire resilience, my choices
of stalwart, successive mates on a statued saint.
My talons hold on Andrew’s scalp – balding
above city-sooted eyes and algaed robe,
I sky-watch the south park, hear the road
roar, smell the Hudson River’s languid roll.

St. Andrew stands his stead. Where St. John saw
white horses, sinners sitting on broad shoulders
of betrayal, angels lugging vials of wrath –
my beak’s my sword. I slash the crawling
low-below of pigeons, squirrels, rats,
finding enough from this church wall
to hatch my babies, feed us all.

I am unfinished, untamed, unnamed,
bearing only she who hunts, she who waits
on a secure saint, outliving the death of mates,
we – the faithless, faithful non-aspirants
to pass through eternity’s guarded gates.

Tricia Knoll is a Vermont poet. This poem first appeared in her chapbook Urban Wild from Finishing Line Press.

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