The largest I’d ever seen
pokes his sharp-eyed head into blades of grass
today, slurps up an earthworm half the length
of a brown shoelace in a single movement
before he moves on to a distant part of the lawn
too far for me to see his next maneuver
—though I can guess—
his fat body evidence of successful hunting
and feel a summary of history from Alexander
to the present tense of competition pass
like an electrical storm in my brain,
its image photographically impressed,
his belly as round as a fruit bowl by Chardin.

Some of us have stood in line as still as this bird
and his worm, while waiting to eat,
our minds playing at gratitude we’re not like others.
No philosopher can best Darwin’s cold observation
of avian evolution
on a Pacific Island without thinking
what God must have meant by encoding our genes
with the violence of difference.

Michael Salcman: retired neurosurgeon and art critic. Poems in Café Review, Harvard Review and Raritan. Books include: The Clock Made of Confetti; A Prague Spring, Before & After, (Sinclair Poetry Prize); the anthology Poetry in Medicine, and Shades & Graces, (Spuyten Duyvil, 2020), inaugural winner of The Daniel Hoffman Legacy Book Prize.