The Battle of Lac Baptiste

by Brenda Levy Tate
PenShells
Second Place, August 2012
Judged by Troy Jollimore


On the stillwater, two loons are baiting an eagle.
Their hoots and wails ripple over the current
until I am tangled in sound, like an ondine
drowned by the weight of her own hair.

The raptor swerves in his search and hangs there,
fans the mist, thinks mostly about himself,
bored by that woodwind chorus from below.
He gathers his anger – vain lord with a knife

in either fist. When he drops, his pinions cry
thinner than a reed the wind riffs through.
People tell me how eagles scream, although
I know we hear only the air’s edges.

A whistle-fall from cruel heaven slices
each of us. Some other bleeds in our places.


What really won me over here were the final four lines: “I know we hear only the air’s edges” is extremely good, as is “Some other bleeds in our places.” There is good stuff in the rest of the poem too – “woodwind chorus from below” is nice, and the fact that this chorus bores the raptor doubly so (how many bored raptors do we encounter in literature, anyway?) – and the overall impression is somehow both pretty and menacing. There might be parts of this poem that are still waiting to happen, but I like what is here. --Troy Jollimore

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