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    Lammergeier in flight

    Poem: “Lammergeier”

    By Stephen Edgar

    September 9, 2023
    • Rhoda Byler Yoder

      Thank you, Stephen Edgar! What a powerful poem. What a strange and inspiring bird.

    Riding a thermal ever higher
    With its clutched prize, the lammergeier

    Forgets the blood sports of the plain
    And banks to swoop again, again

    Towards one chosen spot. Released,
    The femur of a wildebeest,

    Bare bone, no flesh or sinew, plummets
    Some thirty feet to a cliff summit’s

    Rock ledge, whacks it and bounces back
    And somersaults but does not crack,

    Turns cartwheels threatening to kiss
    The sheer brink of the precipice,

    And gradually comes to rest,
    Unshatterable. Too possessed

    By purpose to grow bored or tire,
    Time after time the lammergeier

    Retrieves the hunk of limb and flies
    Aloft to repeat the exercise.

    At last the perfect placement strikes
    The thigh-bone into shards and spikes,

    Sharp delicacies to excite
    That strange and perilous appetite.

    With the sickening precision seen
    In a sword-swallower’s routine,

    It juggles and contrives to get
    A gizzard-skewering bayonet

    Of bone into its gaping beak
    And gulp, with aeons of technique,

    The full length, inch by gruesome inch,
    Down its gullet, and does not flinch.

    There hardly seems the room to slide
    That stomach-puncturing blade inside

    Its body. It does not slump or stagger.
    Then picks out one more jagged dagger.

    Lammergeier in flight

    Photograph: Noel Reynolds, Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus), 2008.

    Contributed By portrait of Stephen Edgar Stephen Edgar

    Australian-born poet Stephen Edgar studied Classics and librarianship at the University of Tasmania and lived in London, Great Britain, and Hobart, Australia, before settling in Sydney.

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