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Two Loons Taken for Vultures

By Sandra Cookson

Above the lake in the park’s only leafless tree

a pair of vultures preens one above the other.

I think vultures, the scene is so stark: the bare

tree, the sun in my eyes – but no. Their svelte

bodies, like the oval of a human eye, long necks,

and bayonet bills mark them fisher birds.

If I were walking by this lake at night

and heard their wild call

would I recognize it issuing

from our crapulent city pond,

where the sky above is never black

but the perpetual twilight of the ill?

And what lunacy has brought them

out of the deep woods’ lakes to our city park?

Peterson maps their habitat

a dense halo of dots encircling the Great Lakes;

by this ubiquity identifies them common loons.

While vultures attend the mysteries of death,

O night criers of the northern wilderness,

you live among us and the battered myth persists.

SANDRA COOKSON will join poet Carole Brown Knuth in a Poets and Writers Series reading at 2 p.m. today in the auditorium of the Burchfield-Penney Art Center on the Buffalo State College campus, 1300 Elmwood Ave. She is a professor of English at Canisius College, where she teaches writing and literature courses, specializing in modern and contemporary poetry and poetry by women. This is the title poem of her 2011 chapbook published by Finishing Line Press. The “Peterson” referenced in stanza three is Roger Tory Peterson (1908-1996), naturalist and author of Peterson’s Field Guides to the Birds.