Accipitrix {Robert F Gross}

They wear Fortuny gowns and carry parasols. They are white as a hawk's egg. They could be mother and daughter could be sisters could be lovers. They declaim odes in dead languages. They are so pale hawks could burst from their foreheads. They are mistresses of incense and the lash. They know disillusionment is the road to beauty. They take care no wounded illusion ever heals. They use veiled threats and astringents. They let hawks perch on their naked wrists. They scrutinize.

They are hawks in human incarnation as the hawks are women in avian incarnation. None of them cry. None of them exhibit affection. All are precise in their movements. Precise in their inflection of pain. Their movements are mathematical, their intentions inscrutable.

They bind the sleepwalker to a sandalwood tree with smiles and suggestions. He is a nameless youth. A naked vagrant, oblivious and long-legged as a crane. They whip him into bleeding. The youth cries out but does not waken. The hawks cry and circle. He is taken in blood and pain. He sees jeweled cities and promised ecstasies. He cries out in opulence. The hawks rip into the youth's flesh as if they were the promise of his manhood. Their talons cut his lips, his tongue. His mouth bleeds a wordless eloquence.

The hawks perch on the shoulders of the youth as he droops and sobs. Tears and sweat drop like opals. The women feed him candied voles and sugared mice.  They gossip in dead languages. They scrutinize the stars, remind him there is no going back. He shall never again be so trusting and exquisite. They surrender him to sounds of the far-off highway, the gaze of the planets, and the melancholy ministry of bats.