In Gaelic mythology, the Cailleach

is the crone-goddess of winter and wild things

All morning the Cooper’s hawk

has been slaking the hunger

that harrows her—a house finch

seized from the feeder.


All morning hunched at her

work under the arborvitae

she takes her sweet

time to gralloch him,


too small but all she could cull.

She wields her billhook

plucking, rending, tugging,

prying tendon from bone,


the frigid yard devoid

of birds save one mourning

dove, watching, knowing

he’s safe while she


unseams her pinioned

prey and loots its rubies,

pecks the tongue from the slack

beak, then the soft dull eye-


berries, splits the wish-

bone, yanks back the matchstick

rack, the treasure-chest

lid of the numbles—


heart, spleen, crop still full

of sunflower seed, gizzard,

kidney, liver, lights,

the pinworm roil of guts—


leaving, when she leaves,

just a rickle of feathers,

not even a trace

of blood on the snow.