This is my staff. An old mountain-man friend, Harvey, whose Indian name is Many Feathers, taught me the technique of shaving the feather shafts and curling them back into themselves to make a loop, then threading a string to tie to the staff. Thus attached, the feathers sway freely in the breeze without damage. Watching it rest in a corner, I wonder why I made it and what it means, to me, today. Well, perhaps it is enough that the feathers are beautiful, and that I carved the staff, and that I love them. Is more rationale needed? This poem imagines finding real raptor feathers, creating a staff, and pondering the meanings.
When a Feather Falls from an Osprey
when a feather falls from an Osprey
wing and lies on a lakeshore
path a boy might find
her and raise her up and stroke
along her stiff-soft vane and hide
her in his sleeping bag
to take home, and, when
considerably older, he might learn
from Many Feathers to drape
her from a staff carved smooth,
from a waxy string tied through
a loop in her shaved shaft
where she sways
in an air-conditioned corner
—and just what are they for?
—what do they mean, now?
dead feathers not
flying just remembering
flights taken—short bursts—and more
merely dreamed of—
(All feathers depicted are lawfully possessed.)