Great Hawk: Presence, Presence This by Becca Tarnas

Becca Tarnas ’10 is an artist, writer, and doctoral student at the California Institute of Integral Studies in the Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion program in San Francisco. She uses art and storytelling as a means to reconnect with our planet Earth in this critical time of ecological crisis. Becca attended the San Francisco Waldorf School for 13 years before pursuing Environmental Studies and Theater Arts at Mount Holyoke. She also holds a master’s degree from CIIS in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness. Becca has been published in Archai: the Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, where she is currently an assistant editor. A collection of her essays, poetry, paintings, and photographs is available on her website,

Emotion held, a breath caught, dark feathered wing-tips,

All rush, all bustle, all anxiety—all suspended.

There is but you and me caught in the inhale of this moment.

Or are you me? Is this suspension nothing more than a pause

A breakdown of the barrier that lies between what I understand,

Between what I understand makes you be you

And makes me


Dark wings soar, cutting hawk shape from textured sky,

Yet when you appear that sky is no more: merely backdrop.

Gripped between razor claws, your prey—my attention—is caught,

Passing mere feet from this barrier I call skin

You land, you presence, you settle, you ignore, you own,

You own my focus, draw me in, alluring

Me to drop all my life in this moment


To watch.

Heart beat, heart beat, wing beat, breath,

Heart beat, wing beat, heart beat, breath.

The branch moves, the outside world closing out—

Am I within your envelope of tearing want

Or has that gateway closed?

You shred, you rip, what lies within your grasp,

Talons, razor beak, dark feathers etched with

Beauty, etched with


Two cries rupture this world into which I gaze alone,

Yet not alone, no more:

Ravens twain disrupt your reign

A pair, a couple, a bonded force, cry out

No!—Do not enter our sacred nest, for which we give our lives

Do not, be not, crisis cries—away, please God

What have you


Who do you hold between your claws?

How did it come to this? My heart

It beats with desperate want,

Presence, presence this—this moment, this hour,

These days are lost, all brought to focus now

Great hawk, whose heart do you devour

Please tell me, how did it come to


One If By – Elizabeth R. Smith ’92

Elizabeth R. Smith, class of 1992


In Boston today I saw

The same pilgrims’ feet treading cow paths                                                                           On  their way to the sea
Shining on a spring day
Shod in shouts of well-wishers
Destination new world
In Boston today I saw

The same reports of smoke coming from the square
Heads turning in curiosity, confusion, horror
A boy dropping his ice cream cone
A girl falling among white blossoms
A woman raising blue eyes to the same sky
In Boston today I saw

The same calloused hands that harvested land and
Heaved ropes on whaling boats
Pulling strangers from the fire
Pressing an open wound
Pinching an artery closed

In Boston today I saw

The same physician’s eye traversing a body
Assessing mortality, calculating distance
Her runner’s apron cradling a curly head
While battle cries form around her

In Boston today I saw

The same shelter-in-place
As the night the Regulars were out
Brownstone doors flung wide to welcome
The pounding feet of runners instead of riders
Citizens watchful at their windows
With solemn nods to servants defending civility

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The Music of What Happens

Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music (Word Press) was published in 2011. Earlier collections are The Country of Women (Calyx, 1995) and The Ceremonies of Longing (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals over the past 35 years. Born in New York City in 1940, Kohler attended public schools there, Mount Holyoke College (A.B., 1961) and Bryn Mawr College, 1966 and Ph.D., 1971). She’s taught literature and writing in venues ranging from elementary school to university. She lives in Massachusetts.

The long spell of freezing’s turned
the blanket of snow to smothering ice.
Earth’s bandaged, damaged. Cows huddle
on the mucky hillock, hunched, black
and dun, winter-stained, geese overhead,
their bellies soot-blackened like the ruins
of dry snowbanks all along the berms.

What will become of me in this season
if I go naked? One swallow doesn’t make
a summer, one robin a spring. The line
of hills on the horizon is so clear I see
the delicate fringe of trees along its crest,
see through their branches. Three birds
land in the mulberry top, small black
flourishes on a black and white sketch.

Properly understood the weather’s music.
In the night I wake thinking of our lives
unspooling, running out, being used up.
My son, my daughter-in-law, are silent
somewhere in the distance of their lives.
My sister’s a stranger, my friends are my
sisters, I am trying to make friends with
my husband’s sisters. This too is music.

I am lifted, saddened, elated, pulled
earthward. The worlds we invent to
realize ourselves are prisons formed by
our limits. The sun’s refracted, a fan of
pale gold flooding the gray east, silvering
the snow on the deck. If it touches me
will I turn younger or older? A shift in
the music’s key is sudden as weather.

Copyright Sandra Kohler 2012