In 1937 T H White set out to break a goshawk, using the long-superseded method of depriving the bird of sleep.
White knew it could take several days
to break the goshawk, whose dandelion eye
flared in the barnâ€™s dim light
as he bated stubbornly
with all his feathered weight,
so neither bird nor man could rest.
Stealth alone could lull him down to rest â€“
a contest that went on for days.
Whiteâ€™s only weapon was to wait,
show no impatience, keep an eye
on how the goshawk stubbornly
rejected the temptation to alight.
Cloistered in a barn with little light,
by the second day White yearned for rest
but like the hawk persisted, stubbornly,
somnambulant through nights and days,
watching his challenger with heavy eye â€“
his only strategy: to wait.
To bring the bird down he must wait
till it was willing to alight.
So neither met the otherâ€™s eye â€“
hubris struggling with desire to rest.
The will to power went on for days,
both man and bird resisting stubbornly,
until, without surrender, stubbornly
the goshawk sank his flagging weight
on outstretched arm. Through sleep-shot daze
the austringer could see the light â€“
the prospect of elusive rest
for bone-tired limb and blood-rimmed eye.
Likewise in the early hours, I,
too, am wrestling stubbornly
with sleep, but find no rest.
Goshawk or austringer? I wait
to see who will yield first, but soon itâ€™s light â€“
grey scaling between nights and days.
On whose whim do the sleepless wait
so stubbornly to rest, impervious to dark and light?
What yellow eye seen through a daze?
Â© Amanda Bell, first published in First the Feathers, Doire Press, 2017
Picture 10186400, photograph for the Mustograph Agency, 1960s, image copyright Mary Evans
Amanda Bellâ€™s publications includeÂ Riptide (Doire Press, 2021); Revolution (wildflower poetry press 2022); First the Feathers (Doire Press, 2017), which was shortlisted for the Strong Shine Award for best first collection; UndercurrentsÂ (Alba, 2016), which won an HSA Kanterman Merit Book Award and was shortlisted for a Touchstone Distinguished Books Award;Â The Lost Library BookÂ (Onslaught, 2017); andÂ the loneliness of the sasquatch, from the Irish by Gabriel RosenstockÂ (Alba, 2018). Her poem â€˜Pointsâ€™ was on a shortlist of four for the Irish Poem of the Year 2017. She is assistant editor ofÂ The Haibun Journal. In 2020 and 2022 she was awarded Literature Bursaries by The Arts Council of Ireland.