What happened. This terrible breaking, this blow. Then slow
     the dogwood strewn like tissue along the black road.
No the busy pollinators the breeze in the pine shadows
     in the aftermath where I drove back there. And two bones
of smoke lifting ahead along the shoulder in the high new
     green weed-bank running beside the asphalt. No
I had come from my father. Nothing more common nothing more
     than such. I could not breathe for the longest time
over and again. There was something deadly, she said, in it.
     Of the genus buteo, as b. harlani, as Harlan’s red-tail.
Blocky in shape, goes the book, blood or brick-red but white
     I am sure underneath, white along its wing, which was not smoke
but rising now one bird. I was coming back and couldn’t breathe
     and him bruised torn bedridden tubed taken to the brink
by his body and carried aloft. There he had fallen.
     This is what happened said the medical team. Fallen:
and ripped aortal stenosis in the process of their repair.   
     No the white bird strained, as trying to lift, to a slight
dihedral, the deepest deliberate wing beats, and barely
    above the snow-white-lipped grasses and the shoulder
until I thought I would hit it. It happened or
     it did not, in the way of my thinking. And now why
I saw. Two lengths of snake helical and alive in the talons
     heavy there, writhing, so the big bird strained for the length
of time that it takes. Like the oiled inner organs
     of a live thing heaving in shreds, the dogwoods
the doctors, and did I say the horrible winds all before.
     Now the air after storm. The old road empty. Swept white,
by blossoms by headlights, my father hovering still:
     why it flew so close, why it was so terribly slow.
I think I hoped it would tear me to pieces. Lift me,
     of my genus helpless, as wretched. And drop me away.
I turned back to the animal. No it turned its back to me.


Copyright © 2017 by David Baker. Used with permission of the author. “Why Not Say” originally appeared in American Poetry Review.