Bowing to the Empress

Through the forest,
through the branches
of shagbarks and walnuts,
through the feathers
of the February snow,
she flows
to her nest
of a thousand
broken and braided sticks,
to her chicks
yelping like tiny wolves,
like downy
emperors for her return,
for her attention,
for red meat,
and you know
theirs is a decent task
in the scheme of things—
the hunters,
the rapacious
plucking up the timid
like so many soft jewels,
they are what keeps everything
enough, but not too many—
and so I bow
to the lightning of her eyes,
the pick of her beak,
the swale of her appetite,
and even to her shadow
over the field—when it passes
I can hardly breathe,
the world is that bright,
my senses so sharply tuned
by the notion of oblivion—
those black wings beating
at the light.
—Mary Oliver