Orion is hunting woodcocks by the light of the moon.
He’s heading under for the summer;
soon he’ll rise at dawn, then at noon.
He’ll stalk only daytime prey, for awhile:
the hot sidewalk pigeons, sparrows,
dogs panting on steaming lawns.
The woodcock peents his pitiful twilight call,
nods his heavy head, whistles his wings,
chirps and spirals, falls like a shooting star.
Somewhere on the meadow edge his lady watches.
Once while he was dancing in the sky
I slogged through soggy mosquito ground
to see him bobbing in the last light, close enough to touch.
Tonight I sat with poets in a bookstore.
Together we chased our quarry around the rim,
tuned our hearts for all to hear.
One black-eyed boy took a fistful of poems from his wallet,
twittered his longing for a golden girl.
We old poets know our places in the quadrille,
but the floor slips away beneath our feet,
the orchestra shifts like seasons,
the music will never repeat.
Even in the silences between
there are voices in the street, under the lamps.
We can never know where the fire will descend;
when, precisely, the stars will come to ground.
This was a runner-up for the Grolier Poetry Prize (now the Ellen LaForge Prize) in 2001. It’s interesting to me how the word “twitter” has changed since then.