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The Turning Sky Philip Levine The first time I saw the red-tailed hawk rise from the floor of the valley, I parked my car to watch him turn the sky above. Late March, '58. In my old Ford for the first time, I wandered the back roads finding orchards of plum and almond in blossom. The passing clouds revised the light as it slipped down the soft hillsides. To myself I said, "This is magical." The whites and greens deepened as colors under water or oils do while the trees rose into a still sky and stayed there. I closed my eyes to count slowly: one, two, three, in the hope the scene would calm. When I opened them a tiny ground squirrel crossed the road to disappear in the thin shade of before noon. The kit fox, hunched and frozen, the bob cat—with small flattened ears—hunched inside the salted wind, the tree rat groping from branch 91 Ecotone: reimagining place to branch, I hadn't found them yet. What had I found? Duck weeds rising from the burned shoots and remnants of the great drought, a hint of fire where the new grass descended toward the river, broken into black pools, its drowned cargo invisible as the noon light flooded everything. Small quick birds dropped from nowhere to skim the orchards, birds without names. I didn't know my own world. I still don't. Today the hawk rose from the same field, clouds blew in from the sea, the hills darkened slowly into afternoon. If I looked Td see the sky slowly turn as always, once, twice, until I stopped looking and turned for home, wherever that might be. 92 ...


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