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(The evening we went to ring the eaglet with the bird man)

by Leonie Charlton

Eyrie i)

She-eagle came in straight and low
red grouse gripped, flash
landing in bracken and scree

detonating pulse of eaglet cries.

It’s on the ground    shit
the thunderstorm this morning,
chick must’ve jumped, they’re scared of thunder.
It needs to be back in the nest to survive,
it’s still two, three weeks off fledging.

I climbed, climbed
pulse of eagle against clavicle,
translucent scales laying down on arms,
chest, in the hollow of my throat

scent of first fire
buzz of flies
yellowest eyes.

Up, up, and all the while
she-eagle stalwart
in treacherous blue.

We left the eyrie quickly,
walked hopeful across heather
in the early fall of summer,
slugs gentling under decay of bog cotton.

Scales are still falling from my skin, my eyes.

Eyrie ii)

Nothing so quiet
as an empty eyrie

in the smir we share
one pair of binoculars

a small brown bird
flutters down the rock-face

loosening last hopes
for an eagle chick

that leapt too soon
from a thunderclap.

Eyrie iii)

The bird man texted
video footage of the eagle chick
was harrowing

    Its damaged neck meant
    it could only see the world upside down,
    meant it couldn’t swallow and digest,
    meant it couldn’t regurgitate pellets.

I think of the parent bird,
trying past twisted cries,
trying until all went quiet.

How after that concavity of time  
she carried the body - now the slightest thing,
to a discreet location.

The bird man texted
we never find eagles that die of natural causes

I find that unaccountably consoling.

The Board and Editor of Northwords Now acknowledge support from Creative Scotland and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.
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