When I was a little girl, I never learned to crawl. I learned to walk and then I learned to fly. My parents were very proud of me. They said, Go far, but watch for sharp winds from the East. So I would leave my home and go everywhere. I would go west where it was warmer and south where it was drier, and up a long way until I got cold. I have seen islands and I have seen deserts. I like them all but I like meadows the best, especially in winter when they turn flaxen and silver. I can see the trails of vole urine like neon, and although the world is big and all mine, in the distance the mountains are like the sides of a crib of the earth to hold me. I like to perch on the bushes or the roadside fences and when people speed by I can hear them with my keen senses say, Look how beautiful she is, look how proud.
I was born a girl, but I make a better falcon. The worst feeling I know is the feeling of my feathers being pulled back under my skin. I think for a moment my own plumes might puncture my internal organs and I cry out, a desperate klee! that morphs in the middle into something flat and mournful. It starts first on my wings and it is a feeling of growing and shrinking all at once. I unfurl into something lanky and cumbersome and earthbound. My parents say Welcome back, our daughter, and I try to say Klee but it is translated in these new vocal cords into sobs.
When I am a girl I feel trapped by things. I cannot see what they look like from above. I cannot see the trails of vole urine and I forget how to feed myself. I have lost my wings but I feel, too, like I have lost my ears and my eyes. My falcon’s eyes are black-gold sharp things like bumblebees, but my girl’s eyes are cups of milk, flat and watery. I am blind, I say, clawing at my face, and they say, Here, we will show you where you are, but I cannot hear them.
I will never accept my girlhood like I have accepted my falconhood. When I am a bird I think about voles and mountaintops and how good hot blood is on my beak. When I am a girl I think about being a bird. I feel bad for her, my girl. She has been neglected ever since she could not crawl. I hope that someday someone will place their thumbs gently over her soft useless eyelids and tells her, Look how beautiful. When I am a falcon I cannot tell her myself because I am too busy being sovereign of the grasslands. I pump my tail to leverage myself against wind and gravity. I have to chase away crows and control the populations of voles. I have to always be wary of goshawks and owls, because even I, sovereign of the grasslands, am vulnerable.
When I am a falcon I am small. I can be battered by the sharp winds from the East. If I could I would hold me to my girl’s chest, the size of a dove and rusty-streaked, and listen to the pulses of my two hearts.