Birds to Prey by Laura G. Miller

Birds to Prey

A painted eagle soars across the commissioned mural
of our mountain town, as if highlighting hidden gems
of heritage and scenery not found on digital maps

or surveilled by a Chinese balloon trekking southeast
from Montana to the Carolinas hunting who-knows-what
and prompting Statue-of-Liberty-sized rumors. I capture

a different spectacle in my bleak backyard: a red-
shouldered hawk swooping into a wintered oak, a lofty nest
compromised. You’d think national security had been alerted

when squadrons of American crows squawk murder
to the taloned intruder, as avian maneuvers streak
across my cloudless sky and camera. A friend in Myrtle Beach

shares his flutter of videos, reports a military boom
from aircraft in pursuit of a floating invader, white plumes
trailing. Within hours, artists swirl inflated versions of truth.

Laura G. Miller lives in southeast Tennessee, has work published or forthcoming in The Pulse and the 2023 Chattanooga Writers’ Guild Anthology. Her collection of poetry, Through Walnuts, was her departmental honors thesis at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, which is archived in their library.

Editor’s Notes and Image Credit: The poem was inspired by recent attempts by China to spy on sensitive US installations using surveillance balloons; the image is from a U.S. Air Force pilot looking down at the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon as it hovered over the Central Continental United States on February 3, 2023. The pair were flying over Bellflower, Mo. [Department of Defense]