Pheasants burst from the field like the outside edge of a splash,
their wingbeats stepping on and over each other
almost like applause. From far away,
each one is lost in the scatter,
the flock or what is now becoming
the flock veers in the bob and weave of panicked flight.
It has worked for generations, why not now?
After the gunshot’s interruption runs its course
they return more annoyed than afraid
to the ground, no nostalgia, nothing remembered.
They hop from place to place or stick and swivel earthward
to turn the tiny clods that may be hiding dinner.
How long does a bird stay full?
It is important for the hunter to know
where they concentrated before.
Where they have been and are not now
a carcass lies. It must be stuck and gutted, dried and smoked
before the sun goes down, before the flock grows
wary of the dusk and tired of flight,
before the gather and the hush,
the barrel’s humming tip cool to the touch.

Calvin Olsen