Red in Claw

Billy Collins

I am as struck as the next one
by an unexpected field of wildflowers,
early sunlight on the face of a granite cliff,
or the clear rush of mountain water in a stream.
but what really gets me
is the way one creature keeps looking around
when it is holding down a fellow creature
while biting or pecking it to death.
This morning was no different.
from the cabin window, I watched a hawk
swiveling its feathered head and mad eye
as it jabbed at the grey-brown field mouse
which was pinned to the ground with one claw.
Is it not instructive to see how this works—
the bird checking always for a thief
or for the shadow of a thing grand enough to take it down.

Billy Collins, who teaches at Lehman College of the City University of New York, was Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001-2003.

“Red in Claw,” reprinted by permission of the author.