Isolde on the Shoulder of St. Andrew

Revelations 19:17 – ” I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a
loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and
gather together…”

I am she, that red-tail hawk, flashy with hook,
flaunting bravado, pledging a full-fledged
raptor monogamy of nest.
Binoc-ogling onlookers down
on Morningside Drive called me Isolde
and my first mate, Tristan who died.

We built a nest first on the face
of the cathedral of St. John the Divine –
on St. Andrew’s marble shoulder chosen
over the host of others – welcomed
to his loaves and fishes, his saltire
lifting our twigs and branches.
From a parapet, Tristan who died guarded sunsets.

After Tristan who died, Norman, until Hurricane Sandy.
Those below admire my resilient choices
of stalwart mates on a statued saint.
My talons grab Andrew’s stone scalp – balding
above sooted eyes and robe of algae,
I sky-watch south park, hear road
roar, smell the Hudson’s tired roll.

St. Andrew holds for me. Where St. John saw
white horses, sinners on broad shoulders
of betrayal, angels lugging vials of wrath –
my beak’s my sword. I slash the hustling
low-below of pigeons, squirrels, rats,
finding enough from this church wall
to feed my eyases.

I wait atop a secure saint,
outliving mates.
Me – the faithless, faithful non-aspirant
to pass through eternity’s guarded gates.

By Tricia Knoll

peregrine falcon perched on side of building

Knoll_Author_PhotoI wrote my chapbook Urban Wild (Finishing Line Press) some years ago and spent time looking for stories and events that highlighted the interface between wild creatures and humans in urban habitat. I live near a small creek in Portland which is a corridor for coyotes. Each fall a pileated woodpecker comes back to investigate my alder trees. I was captivated by this story of Isolde and the other red tails who have found niches in New York City. Website:

Click here to see a photo of Isolde on the shoulder of St Andrew and other stories of  hawks in New York City.

Photo of peregrine falcon by Michael Lane

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