The first nighthawk returns
above the parking lot where husbands
carry bottles of soft drinks
and sacks of bargain charcoal.
The nighthawk has not conjured
the lateness of spring, not
the men who switch on headlights
and go home. The nighthawk
summons itself from the thickening
air with its own sharp voice.
The men become used to the season
and the dull ring of briquettes
hitting the brziers' thin metal.
Only the voices of their sons
startle their work, the new boys
who leap from the darkened bushes
and run circling wild as flies.
The whippoorwill and the owl
have not spoken yet, only this
patrolling and arcing animal.
The whippoorwill hasn't nested,
and the shy owl preens
its great talons, maybe
near the barbeque, maybe
looking up at the nighthawk's cross
on the depth of the night sky.
There will be time for the fathers
to stare down the orange pits
of coal and carry their sons
upstairs to disordered rooms.
The summer will fill with nighthawks
who zoom down to the fathers' roofs,
and fathers, calmly and without mercy
go back to dowse the coals and inventory
the tools they need for the season,
find them corroded but in order:
the hoe and the machete and the spade.
And in their humid sheds they switch
the lights off and walk ignoring
the nighthawk who summons itself
with its own crisp vowels.
After all, it's only the night shift
taking over, and the men know
their weathered metal has no use now.
Better to let the lawns thicken
and the sons grow taller beneath
that bird's moonlit labors.