He Has My Wings

A Poem inspired by Jarvis Masters

A hawk landed
on the rail post of the deck.
I ran out with a cry —
“No!” —
my chickens scratched beneath him,
and small birds crowded the feeder.

The hawk turned
looking unconcerned
as if to say,
“Where’s the fire?”

The hawk paused
then opening his wings
he, without effort,
left my deck.

The hawk gone
my heart pounded
and my brain computed
“What a magnificent creature!”

The hawk may never return
to allow me to be so close,
he, whose kin soared above this land
long before I was ever here.

The hawk saw me
with the eyes of a wise sentient being.
I saw him as bad “other”
until I remembered
we are both made of stardust
that hawk has my wings.

This is a true account of my opportunity to meet a hawk, up close and personal. I could have paused in awe but I was too focused on seeing him as a threat to my chickens and the birds on my feeder. He was a small hawk, much smaller than my chickens and probably was not much threat to them. I lost a precious chance to appreciate his majesty, and see him for what he truly was.

I was inspired to tell this story in this way when I heard the story of
Jarvis Masters, a prisoner on death row at San Quentin prison who is a Buddhist meditator and author.

The story goes that Jarvis was in the exercise yard when a seagull landed in a puddle. Another inmate picked up a large stone to throw at the bird. Jarvis stopped him, much to the surprise of the other prisoner and all the other inmates. They were sure a fight would ensue. When the angry inmate asked Jarvis what he was doing, he spontaneously said, “That bird has my wings.”

For days afterward, the inmates would approach him and ask, “What did you mean by that, Jarvis?

When we recognize that we are all here for a reason, we can begin to see how interconnected we are. None of us is more important than others. It is when we can begin to catch ourselves in the act of creating stories about “bad other” that we can choose to change the way we interact with each other and with our world. If we will drop the stories we can appreciate how much we need each other. After all, you may need your wings one day.

Thank you for reading. You may also like to read this.

Human learning to be human. Writing in hopes of getting there.

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