Cliff Lovers

Teaching in Chinatown, I am near PG&E’s 77 Beale Street where peregrine falcons nest each spring. I stand before students, lecturing about rats and wolves, and notice the mated pair launch and land on the peak of the skyscraper. Both mother and father brood their clutch of eggs. They hunt birds in the grey city canyons and prey on waterfowl near Fisherman’s wharf. Honking cabs and office lights may obstruct their strike. Sidewalk shufflers can spook pigeon flocks. But cool ledges of high rise towers make natural nests for cliff lovers. A pair mates for life and returns to the same spot every year. The falcons feed their fluffy white chicks, tearing off strips of meat red as roasted Pei-pa duck hanging in restaurant windows of Chinatown.

thirteenth floor —
mother falcon hunts dove
below me


Written in response to today’s dVerse Haibun Monday prompt.

19 thoughts on “Cliff Lovers

  1. Oh, the City. I lived in Half Moon Bay, worked at UCSF till we moved here and you can’t get SF out of your blood. The view from the 13th floor must be amazing–and having the wee bit of nature intrude—a good distraction. Gray city canyons–just so.

    1. m.j.smith

      It is an amazing view – one side of the building looks at Coit, another the Bay Bridge, another Chinatown. I never tire of it.

  2. What a wonderful expression of the unpredictable and yet still thriving life. Swift falcons can still make a living in the big city. Your Haiku expresses it as well, more pigeons, doves, etc. there than anywhere else on earth

  3. Love this unique perspective on San Francisco and the comparison of the falcons tearing strips of red meat to that which hangs in the windows of Chinatown. The juxtaposition of city/wildlife and birds/humans was really nice.

  4. Excellent response to the prompt. In the days before my retirement, I also worked in an office with a high rise across the alley. I had a very large window that looked out on the side window ledges of the building. I could barely see the nest from my window and would often go to the office at the end of our hall, to keep tabs on the pair and their young charges. We all talked in “human terms” of how they cared for their young…oohed and ahhhed as the young shed their scrawny looks and began to get too big for the nest. One morning I opened my blinds and was horrified to see one of the youngster’s dead body sprawled on the ledge directly across from my window. It must have tried to fly and not found its way back to the nest, or flown into the window and died from the impact. It was heartbreaking to see. And then I saw the “mother” fly to its body…and I began to be sadder still….until I saw her begin to eat the body. Tear its flesh apart. I quickly closed the shades and realized, survival of the fittest, these are carnivorous hunters…they do not necessarily “nurture” their young. In the years that followed, I never could bring myself to walk to the end of the hall and look at the following year’s nests. Your words brought it all back…you’ve described so well the justapositioning of wild life in the city of cement and bricks and people. I always wonder where they go when they leave their city abode for good?
    Your details of description are excellent.

    1. m.j.smith

      Incredible story! It shows the danger of anthropomorphizing animals too much. Then again, humans destroy their own young in many ways too. It’s difficult to resist the easy, comforting theme in poetry sometimes. You have got me thinking…

  5. I love that image of the wild hunter in the city streets. We have them nesting in the spire of the basilica here. Even with the noise of the market below, when they start a fight with smaller falcons or the kites, people look up to watch.

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