The Condors

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We went to Pinnacles hoping to see
the condors, hoping to check one last box
before we left California, needing to see,

really, your father’s lifework: birds he nudged back
from the brink of extinction (his secret,
skinning the mice before he dangled them

above the chorus of slate beaks,
his pale hand hidden by the white and black
feeding-gauntlet, a leather puppet

used to keep the chicks from imprinting),
your sensible father, who dropped into
silence as a slow cancer engulfed him,

hoping, I have to believe, to keep you
from the finer points of love and grief, their true,
terrific devouring.