Hurt Hawks Poem by Robinson Jeffers

Hurt Hawks

Rating: 3.3


The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat,

No more to use the sky forever but live with famine
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons.

He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom
And flies in a dream, the dawns ruin it.

He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,

The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.

You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember him.


I'd sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk;
but the great redtail
Had nothing left but unable misery
From the bone too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed under his talons when he moved.

We had fed him six weeks, I gave him freedom,
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for death,
Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old
Implacable arrogance.

I gave him the lead gift in the twilight.
What fell was relaxed, Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.

Ron Wallace 20 July 2008

Possibly the best poem ever written, unquestionably in the top five.

12 9 Reply
Taylor Graham 02 November 2009

I have trouble reading this aloud. It is to cry.

13 7 Reply
Michael Walker 10 November 2019

He was kind to look after a hawk and nurse it back to health.

1 0 Reply
Barbara Hall 13 February 2019

Powerful, tight and great writing.

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Tedano 15 February 2019


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Harvey 08 May 2018

Great poem, but the “lead gift” is a bullet, pronounced “led,” not the verb “lead.”

4 2 Reply
Nina Morzenti 19 September 2017

I, too, am crying, reading this even silently; also about his dear dog Haig...

3 2 Reply
Saiom Shriver 31 March 2012

Because of Ronbinson Jeffers, the world is a more compassionate place for the voiceless and powerless.

12 8 Reply
Robinson Jeffers

Robinson Jeffers

Allegheny, Pennsylvania
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