For Mary and Cynthia
On this chipped turquoise October morning
we picked our way over a track of stones and boulders
to the North Lookout, a craggy outcropping
along the Kittatinny Ridge, a short hike to the Appalachian Trail.
Once settled onto our three solid perches,
we scan the wide valley with binoculars and cameras
and listen as counters shout out the names of specks
wheeling above us on their migratory highway.
As our eyes and hopes adjust to long stretches of emptiness,
it is time for the mountain to tell its story,
of how hunters once lined these flinty trails on fall days
to lay waste to birds of prey who ingested their flocks.
I am the novice among these birders who landed here.
As one points to a sharp-shinned hawk coming over ridge four
and another sights an American kestrel near the south slope,
it is enough simply to be here high above solid ground.
For we have come to this sanctuary from three different states,
eager to connect after empty months that tied us to earth.
As you leaf through your family’s much-used birding books,
II know your mother is here, calling out a golden eagle as we all look up.