Consider reduction—the five turkey vultures
making sleek dark circles above the field
this morning. They hunt by smell, I read,
but hunt isn’t right—instead they gather
from the air some wind-translated
sign of carcass. No punishment, nothing inflicted—
the angle of their plunge a means to rewind
the self to material, almost a mothering.
Each afternoon, when the freight train
pushes its current with a high whine
through the culvert near the field,
I wonder what it leaves behind for them
and remember I was named
for the woman in that famous Russian novel,
who tossed herself from the platform at the station
as the engine pulled in. No revising that action.
She was a mother too.
At twelve, I read it and thought her a fool.
Now I see how a life buckles—a horse
whose head has been yanked
too often takes command how it can.
This morning, the vultures land
in the lichened branches of a nearby tree
as if to claim the offal of this neighborhood,
Red-crowned, they preen
with their hooked beaks, accepting every stain.