Hawk Mountain, September
Patricia Valdata

One by one, broad-winged hawks enlarge from
distant speck to soaring bird, gathering air as they circle

over the ridge, one bird joined by another and another
until dozens spiral together over the forested hill.

The higher birds’ field marks fade in the low-slung clouds
until one or more decide to head south. The kettles

straighten and stream past rocks where birders look
up, counting or admiring or both. The temptation

so strong to wave, throw streamers, yell bon voyage!
By the day’s end, three thousand will have passed

over the mountain, over the Amish fields, following
cold fronts and ridgelines. In two weeks they’ll be gone,

funneling down the Mexican coast to Central America,
where prey is plentiful and trees stay green all winter.

The young lead the way, immature birds born with a map
in their heads, eager to leave home, like teenagers

with car keys, or the young boy jumping from rock to rock,
ignoring the overhead passage, too busy throwing pebbles

and snapping sticks to care about birds, too full of energy
to sit still like his mother, who watches him more than hawks,

as if she can give him traction with her eyes, deny
what she already knows, that all things grow up and leave.