ODonnell500x575The ravens look miniature compared to the eagle crouched in the crook of driftwood tree, tearing a seagull to shreds. Think beach bone, skeleton perch. Think rock, tide-worn.

The man I watch watches the eagle, ignoring the ravens and the breeze at the back of his neck until he can’t, and pulls his hoodie over his ears, moves closer, stalking, like the ravens. The eagle ignores them both. Think caw and clatter. Think dumpster kings, menacing syrupy sound.

Unnoticed, I notice the man who notices only the eagle and the ravens, who notice only the eagle and the seagull, and the eagle, who notices only the wind and the seagull, who, being dead, notices nothing. Think eyeball and red strip. Think rib cage and beak.

Then another man, beach walking, notices everything—first man, ravens, eagle, seagull—except me. Think tentative shiver and stilt, shrugged shoulders and slight lean.

Facing each other across the driftwood, the men take out their phones, aim at the eagle and at each other, kneel, praying, just stay still, holding their breath to steady whatever quivers inside them that I can’t see. Think manufactured click. Think definitive proof.

Is the eagle even in the picture I took of two men taking pictures of an eagle and each other taking pictures of an eagle with their phones? Think two-toned, sidelong. Think feathered indifference. Think abstraction. Think stare.

The seagull was there. I have proof. After the men moved on, after the ravens moved on, the eagle flew, a wisp of sound over the lapping waves. In its talons hung the seagull’s ragged flesh, one feather dangling, an inverted flag claiming the small country to which it clung. No one took a picture of it.

Nicole Stellon O’Donnell’s novel-in-poems, Steam Laundry, won the 2013 WILLA Award in Poetry. Her writing has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Beloit Poetry journal, The Women’s Review of Books, Bellingham Review, Los Angeles Review and other journals. She received an Individual Artist Award from the Rasmuson Foundation and a Boochever Fellowship from the Alaska State Council on the Arts.

Photography by Liz Wuerffel