Vulture Under the Palisades

The park road is closed in winter

But they let you through on foot

The mile or two to the base of the cliffs

The vast stretch of river

Through bare growth

And apartment blocks on the far shore

Catching the pink light of late afternoon

Along their crests. Very still

Occasional birdsong and the distant rush

of snowmelt from the culverts built into basalt

What they once called bluestone hereabouts

Until you round the bend

and there’s the bridge

Rising 600 feet from its pier in the shallows

You pass underneath

And the low roar and thrumming of traffic

Swallows everything else around it

Until there is no you

But then you pass through, back into the silence

The sough of water from the Palisades

And you smell the river and tidal flats

That’s when you spot it

Perched high in the branches at the water’s edge

What you first mistake for a raven

Dangling something from its beak

When it turns to look down at you

With that narrow russet instrument of face

Then back at the river and spreads its wings

August Kleinzahler


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