At the End, More Than an Ocean
Lafayette Wattles

In England, my first full day,
you took me to that castle
with the birds of prey
and I guess I expected
towers and parapets, murder
holes, and extra walls
for defense, perhaps
the remnants of cannon
breath upon the stony
skeleton of some once-great beast.
But what I found was evidence
of our love in the tiny who-
less owl tethered to a post
by an oak as if to say
you are close enough to the real thing
to be part of what it represents
without being able to grasp
but its shade. I had no idea
some English castles
are just like those in the US,
houses too big to be a home,
with more rooms than two hearts
can fill, but not built
as a place for battle. Outside,
on the lawn, the man
demonstrated the precision
and grace of the falcon
as it left his leathered arm
and returned, time and again,
followed by the poise of the hawk,
but it was the grand finale
that caught us, both, by surprise,
the eagle, waiting
on rooftop to be called,
swooping over our heads.
And I was convinced, at that moment,
it could have carried me away
like first sight of you
all those years before, for it was love
with its massive wings spread,
but it didn’t move the way
I had thought it would, forsaking
the arm to sweep out over the field,
soar high across the land,
to the farthest corner,
out of instinct, perhaps, then circling
the tallest tree at the edge
of all we could see, as if hidden
somewhere beyond our vision
was a thing too strong to ignore.
And the handler laughed
the laugh of one who has lost
the very heart of what has made him,
and he said as much.
She’s spotted something, he said.
She won’t return, now, until she has it
or until she’s bored. And you looked
away, couldn’t face me, then,
as if you had seen yourself
for, maybe, the first time. Later,
we drove on the wrong side
of silence, all the way back to London,
never touching, at the end,
as if we knew we were tethered
to the shade of what had been,
saying all that remained
between us with our eyes.

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