Originally from Queens, New York, I live in West Philadelphia, where I founded the Red Sofa Salon & Poetry Workshop. I was selected by Adrienne Rich as a recipient of a National Writers Union Poetry Prize and have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I am the author of the chapbook The Apparatus of Visible Things (Finishing Line Press). My poetry is published in Narrative, Alaska Quarterly Review, Drunken Boat, Linebreak, The Nervous Breakdown, and other literary journals, and in The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry. I hold an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College.
The hawk holds the fish down
On the tree limb—one talon
Stuck through the gut—calls
And calls, cocks its head to the wind,
Waits for someone to share the fish with,
And soon. Minutes tick in the stomach.
The hawk leans down, nips and takes
Another taste. Gray flesh hangs.
Now a call from somewhere else.
The hawk’s white head
Spins to it. Fish tail twitches,
Hits the air like a hiccup.
The body, spasmodic, batters its devourer
While the flesh is torn away.
Inside the studio, a horse’s head
In white marble stares at me
From a perfect hole.
Outside, palm trees shake no and yes.
The fish has quieted down
Under the biting beak
As bits of itself
Drop back to the canal.
Escape from the Crocodile Farm
“About 15,000 crocodiles escaped from a South African reptile farm [after] driving rains forced the Limpapo River over its banks … The farm’s owners … opened the gates, springing the crocodiles …”
–New York Times, January 25, 2013
The farm has lost its source of skins
That stock the curio shop with leather bags,
Croc meat barbequed
For tourists’ picnic lunches.
One croc is found alone on a rugby field,
Like the last kid picked for the team.
Others are found at night
Among clumps of mud
In orange groves lining the river.
Eyes shine and give themselves away.
Half are caught and brought back to the farm.
Half remain in the river,
Where villagers wait to be rescued
As the crocs circle.
Their mouths hang open
To taste the crazy rain.
They close their jaws
When they’ve chosen to.
Burning the Squirrels
The “how-to” article explains
A natural way to get rid of squirrels.
I saw one this morning on the porch,
Something in its mouth—an acorn or one
Of my spring bulbs and the garden
Filled with holes.
I chop onions and jalapeños
Like the instructions say,
Boil the water,
Dump teaspoon after teaspoon
Of cayenne. A knock at the door.
Lady from the gas company
Arrives to turn on the heat.
I offer green tea and cookies.
We cough as the pepper sauce simmers.
She’s gone. I pour it on the lawn.
Julie stops by:
What are you doing? she says.
Don’t you know?
The squirrels will scratch their eyes out.
I tell her, I thought the smell puts them off,
But she says, No, they get sauce on their paws
When they dig in the soil,
Rub their eyes and scratch them out.
I say, Julie, I had no idea.
She says, You can water the lawn.
I say, It’s going to rain.
©2015 Hila Ratzabi