Today’s poem is “Loon Stabs Eagle through the Heart the Same Week George Floyd is Murdered” by Meghan Sterling. She’s the co-editor of the anthology, A Dangerous New World: Maine Voices on the Climate Crisis, and her work has been published in Rattle, Balancing Act 2, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Literary Mama and Enough! Maine Poet's Protest. Meghan’s debut full-length collection of poetry is forthcoming from Terrapin Books in 2021. She’s associate poetry editor for the Maine Review and lives in Portland with her family.
She writes, “As a mother of a small child, George Floyd’s death and final cries for his mother hit me deep- I wept the tears of a mother who cries for the loss of a child. And with the grief came rage. When a few days later I read that a loon had stabbed a bald eagle clean through the heart with her beak for killing her chick, I felt with clarity that these experiences were interwoven- that mothers everywhere were grieving for the loss of a man who had become our child through his cries, and the loon was all of us, exacting our revenge.”
Loon Stabs Bald Eagle through the Heart the Same Week George Floyd Is Murdered
by Meghan Sterling
Every mother knows this fear. Dreams that have kept me up nights:
a thick-necked stranger grabs at my infant daughter;
the roar of rising waters wresting her from my arms,
and now, a policeman kneeling on her neck
as she calls my name. She is 3, and I still dream
she is a newborn, my DNA dictating me to organize
every part of my life to protect her, my body arranging to become a shield.
It just happens: you look into the face of your child,
petal-soft and gaping like a fish, and you resolve
that you would kill for her.
The loon was no different. The chick she lay, that she carried across waters,
cradled in her wings, grasped to death by the eagle who thought
this was just another answer to hunger.
But we mothers know the brutal acts possible—the fingers that stroke our infant’s hair
would stab out a man’s eyes without joy, urged to murder by
the simple fact of animal justice.
And the grief that propelled the mother’s beak
to pierce the eagle’s heart as fast and clean as a bullet
is the grief that all mothers flinch to mention,
and the man on the ground, as breath failed him,
calling out mama as he was murdered by a policeman,
is the voice that haunts us—every mother who heard that call cries out in answer:
darling, we are coming.
“Loon Stabs Bald Eagle through the Heart the Same Week George Floyd Is Murdered” by Meghan Sterling. Reprinted from Enough! Poems of Resistance and Protest (Littoral Books 2020), by permission of the author.