A Note on the Condor Who Briefly Escaped from the Hatching Program at the Oregon Zoo• March 26, 2009
Formally known as Number 22 and informally as Elmer,
He escaped in the ancient style, quietly breaking his lock
And then waiting for nightfall. He hung the lock back up,
Reported a security guard. Then Elmer hopped or flew to
The parking lot, where he apparently dined on a dead cat,
And then for 11 days nothing more was heard of him,
Until a boy at the beach noticed a vulture the size of a car.
The boy, 13, was a serious student of raptors, and he
Knew what it was not: eagle, osprey, heron, small vulture.
And indeed it was Elmer, the first condor to see the ocean
In a century in Oregon, the first to taste wild fish, the first
To scare the living daylights out of cormorants and ducks,
The first to soar endlessly over fir and creek, Thunderbird
Returned to the land of the Nehalem and Tillamook clans,
Thunderbird who taught the people how to eat the whales,
Thunderbird whose wife was also a giant and kindhearted,
Thunderbird whose eyes flashed lightning and wings were
The source of thunders, Thunderbird the chief of all chiefs.
Imagine Elmer, no longer Number 22, shredding a salmon,
Perched calmly in a massive spruce on an August morning,
The spruce branch surrendering to his considerable weight,
A boy far below gaping as he realizes that the Thunderbird
Is again, for a few sweet sudden days, lord of the salty sky.