Five Feminist Poems for National Poetry Month: 1. “The Hawk”


“Poets are some of feminism’s most influential activists, theorists, and spokeswomen; at the same time, poetry has become a favorite means of self-expression, consciousness-raising and communication.”

Jan Clausen, A Movement of Poets, 1982


Thirty-two years later, Clausen’s assessment of poetry remains apt. Poetry is a site of vibrant feminist activism where women give voice to new feminist visions and new feminist politics.

And what better time to celebrate feminist poetry than now, for April is National Poetry Month, inaugurated in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets to “celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture.”

The Ms. Blog will present five new, unpublished poems by five feminist poets this month. Every few days there will be a new offering, providing an opportunity to connect with feminist thought, to meet a feminist poet through her work and to learn about vibrant feminist conversations within contemporary poetry.

Verónica Reyes

“The Hawk,” a new poem by Verónica Reyes, starts the series. Reyes is a Chicana feminist jota [lesbian] poet from East Los Angeles, and her poems give voice to all her communities: Chicanas/os, immigrants, Mexican Americans and la jotería [queer community]. Her work has appeared in Calyx, Feminist Studies, ZYZZYVA, and The New York Quarterly. Red Hen Press published her first book of poems, Chopper! Chopper! Poetry from Bordered Lives, in 2013, and it’s a finalist for the 2014 Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Poetry. HoJxvW7OntEpf4MF_QHXqMFek_qt0nNNXUNS8YrG9ys

In “The Hawk,” Reyes provides a view of the California landscape. The narrator catches a glimpse of “brown-feathered speck” that seems to travel with her “up the state freeway to Napa Valley.” Xochitl, the narrator, wonders, “Was the hawk following her?” This extended meditation on the hawk and its relation to the narrator progresses through Reyes’s carefully measured poem unfolding in orderly quatrains (four-line stanzas). By the conclusion, readers join with the narrator in the sense of wonderment that nature inspires, believing in its magical forms of communication.

Enjoy “The Hawk” and the beginning of the month-long celebration of National Poetry Month at the Ms. Blog.

The Hawk

Up the concrete river of the northern highway
the crusty-mustard Volvo smelled of dogs, cigarettes
The passenger stared out the speckled window
The windy sky was spotted with kites bursting open

Reds, yellows, orange hues streamed the blue dome
The driver announced, I take my dogs to that park
The passenger, Xochitl, nodded her head oh, yeah
And she spotted the green hilly ground spawning

Far off to the west a brown-feathered speck swirled
She said nothing and only watched the dips, rises
They trekked up the state freeway to Napa Valley
and peering across the land of green mountains

The tips of white wings pulled her attention up
Xochitl’s eyes glanced northwest of the horizon
and a hawk danced in the empty turquoise sky
She noted the curves, swirls of the brush strokes

The image stuck in her mind, a hawk’s painting
and all along the paved trails they drove up
Gray licks of road suffocate the semi-moist land
and Xochitl saw a hawk floating in clear water sky

It plunged into the coolness of the sparkling air
She touched, cupped her lip, mumbled inside
herself, ‘Was it the same hawk from before?’
And it disappeared as quickly as it emerged above

Passed the Bay’s cusp of land and empty sky
she saw the hawk glide to the midpoint between
It dove between rocky landscape and openness
And Xochitl cocked her head to look a bit more

The driver, an old friend, talked of haikus and stuff
Words flitted by and went out the cracked window
Her keen eyes trailed its flight in the northern sky
And she squinted, ‘Was the hawk following her?’

In town she sipped red wine on a Sunday of evening blue
Heard poetry of bewilderment floating across the court
A poet said ‘a shorn of monkeys’ jumped from tree to tree
The trees swayed, leaves rustled against the sky’s canvas

And she dreamed of the hawk dipping lines of white paint
At the coffeehouse Xochitl sat on the green patio chair
She sipped freshly brewed French roast while gazing out
From her periphery between the roof’s edge and black wire
she saw a glimpse of a beak, wing, and gazed to the left

And in the afternoon sky, a hawk swirled in the open air
And for a moment, she truly thought it was the same one
And for a moment, she wondered if it meant something
And for a moment, she wondered about her Amá, the hawk
And for a moment, Xochitl truly wondered if it was her


“The Hawk” © Verónica Reyes, reproduced with permission of the author

Hawk photo by Flickr user bagsgroove under license from Creative Commons 2.0

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Julie R. Enszer is a scholar and poet. She's currently the editor of Sinister Wisdom, a multicultural lesbian literary and art journal, and a regular book reviewer for the Lambda Book Report and Calyx. Julie's research has appeared or is forthcoming in Southern CulturesJournal of Lesbian StudiesAmerican PeriodicalsWSQFrontiers and other journals; she is the author of the poetry collections AvowedLilith’s DemonsSisterhood and Handmade Love and the editor of The Complete Works of Pat Parker and Milk & Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry.