The falcon wears its erudition lightly
As it angles down towards its master’s glove.
Student of thermals written by the desert,
It scarcely moves a muscle as it rides
A silent avalanche back to the wrist
Where it will stand in wait like a hooded hostage.
A lifetime’s learning renders youthful effort
Less necessary, which is fortunate.
The chase and first-strike kill it once could wing
Have grown beyond it, so some morning soon
This bird will have its neck wrung without warning
And one of its progeny will take its place.
Thinking these things, the ageing writer makes
Sketches for poems, notes for paragraphs.
Bound for the darkness, does he see himself
Balanced and forceful like the poised assassin
Whose mere trajectory attracts all eyes
Except the victim’s? Habit can die hard,
But still the chance remains he simply likes it,
Catching the shifting air the way a falcon
Spreads on a secret wave, the outpaced earth
Left looking powerless. This sentence here,
Weighed down by literal meaning as it is,
Might only need that loose clause to take off,
Air-launched from a position in the sky
For a long glide with just its wing-tip feathers
Correcting for the wobble in the lisp
Of sliding nothingness, the whispering road
That leads you to a dead-heat with your shadow
At the orange-blossom trellis in the oasis.
by Clive James