Human Imprint

by Hastings Hensel

The baby vulture, captured,
imagined me as I was:
mother, lover, rival.

Call it an existential crisis.
The nest I’d found
out prowling the woods

should never have fallen,
but it nearly
fell into my arms.

A real mother hovered
upwards, rocked
on the thin air above the river.

Call it a moral quandary
if you must, but just
think about it first:

the very first thing effective
at love she saw,
yes, was me.

Think positive psychology.
All this vulture
could learn about nurture

I taught her: how to laugh
like a drunk in the afternoons,
how to touch

softly the back of a neck.
And nature:
that jealousy is rage,

but rage like passion dies down.
Once, set free,
she rebuffed the hospitable air.

Call her scatterbrained,
I named her Angeline,

and Angeline limped back
to my doorstep and pecked
at my backdoor glass.

When I shot her, her neck
writhed like a rattlesnake
alive in the grass.

HASTINGS HENSEL is the author of a full-length poetry volume, Winter Inlet (Unicorn, 2015), which earned the Unicorn Press First Book Award, and of a chapbook, Control Burn (2011), which won of the Iron Horse Literary Review Single-Author Competition. The recipient of the 2014-2015 South Carolina Arts Commission Fellowship in Poetry, his poems appear in storySouthThe Greensboro ReviewCave Wall32 Poems, and elsewhere. He teaches at Coastal Carolina University, where he is the poetry editor of Waccamaw, and lives with his wife, Lee, in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.