When I drive down 79, I don’t usually pay attention
to the sky, the way clouds bend into the blue and green light.
The car engine murmurs. The steering wheel collects sweat.
I propel forward by habit, the years of moving down
this highway every Monday morning. I pack the car.
I drink coffee. I move with the curves of the highway.
Big rigs swerve, muddle the lanes and I’m alone, suspended
from all time in the eighty-six miles between home and work.
How weightless the distance feels. Then, in a whirling turn
they appear, grey or brown, white feathers luminous,
sparkling of blood, rain, the dangers of living near cement.
One by one they show up, perched on light poles, on highway
signs, on stripped trees empty of leaves. Fierce, heads turning,
yellow eyes moving, they scan the road, the metal cars, the trucks.
Sit in wait. Sentries waiting for time, ready to leap into the air, ready
to stoop into a field, grab a rabbit, gopher, groundhog, pierce
their insides the soft middles, grip the bodies with talons,
snap necks, carry their dead food to the woods, rip into
flesh and feed. I drive by the drama too quickly, looking up,
looking out the windows of the car, wanting to follow them
across the grass, into trees and bushes, wishing I could leave
the car on the side of the road, be an acolyte to their terror.
I am suddenly alive. Crane my neck to see them fly wild
with turbine wings, black beaks, bodies that slice sky.
I never know if they’re hawks or kites or falcons.
They are still somewhere beyond the highway and trees,
living on blood and entrails, restless for the next flight.
And I become a creature driven by blood, by heat, ready
to puncture the sky, grab bodies, find the innards and feast.
M. Soledad Caballero is a 2017 Canto Mundo and Macondo fellow nominated for three Pushcart Prizes and two Best of the Net Prizes. Her poem “Myths We Tell” won the 2019 Joy Harjo poetry prize for Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts. Her poem “Before an MRI: A Questionnaire” won SWWIM’s SWWIM-For-the-Fun-of-It contest in 2020. Her work has appeared in the Missouri Review, the Mississippi Review, the Iron Horse Literary Review, Memorious, the Crab Orchard Review, and other venues. Her first collection titled “I Was a Bell” won the 2019 Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award and was published by Red Hen Press in September 2021. “I Was a Bell” has won several post-publication awards including the 2022 gold medal for The Juan Felipe Herrera Best Poetry Book Award (one author/English) sponsored by the International Latin Book Awards.