Robert Savino Oventile

Robert Savino Oventile hikes Eaton Canyon regularly. His poetry has appeared in The New Delta Review, Upstairs at Duroc, and The Denver Quarterly. He is coauthor with Sandy Florian of Sophia Lethe Talks Doxodox Down (Atmosphere, 2021).

A bird sitting on a ledge


Gliding over floodwaters, a raven scans the horizon while another listens to the wind. None of their mocking deceits are of use now, just imagining dry ground, mountainside perches in dead trees, and all the carrion the rippling expanse will yield.

On a sloped mesa brushed by warm breezes and thick with poppies in bloom, yellow and orange, look to the red sun low over the blue water and remember, deep in the canyon, just past the gray boulders, the two black birds pecking and picking at the eyes and ears.

The most impeccable mimic courts mockery. To see and listen to the point of synesthesia may imply concord but also blind silence, silent blindness. Yet a void of sight and sound, opening, might allow audiovisuals to arrive and remain distinct.

Two circle back and observe, chattering and wing gesturing. They dip over a ridge. Returning, one carries a small bottle, which the bird drops to the road. The bottle breaks. The other lands, grabs a shard with its beak, takes off. The birds fly from view.

After a canyon walk at dusk, return to the car, get in, lock the doors, crack a window, switch off the interior light, tilt back the seat. Shrouded by heavily tinted glass, sink into the plush black upholstery. Breath slows. Eyes close. A raven peers into the darkness.

Poetry & Photo: © Robert Savino Oventile 2023

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A close up of a bird

California Condor

A silent milling black cloud ravenously at a beached whale carcass, crops filling to the point of balking flight, a rare feast, an echo of what had been common tableaux when mammoths fattened on grass and fell to old age or saber-toothed cats or obsidian points.

A few decades back, in the canyon, conservationists found old shell fragments where “the General” had hatched now over a century ago, so named by ornithologists, who took him to the Willamette Valley then to an east coast zoo, where he died young.

Return. High in the canyon, quiet pools below the upper falls await the shadow of broad wings and again would host the image of soaring, however briefly. Return, and though homecoming entangles two species, their gifts remain distinct.

To each a number, a name, a tag, a tracker, an online profile, a genealogy, a list of offspring, biological and foster, a relationship status, and if so with whom, a bio, a hatch date and location, a death date eventually, a dataset augmenting in the cloud.

With a cobalt sky above, the San Gabriels below, and San Gorgonio to the east capped white, ride a thermal, turn, turn, sight the Mojave’s khaki and the Pacific’s blue, then plunge down toward some crows in the canyon circling a patch of green.

Poetry: © Robert Savino Oventile 2023
Photography: Kelly VanDellen / Adobe

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Oddly warm rains bring us out. From our growing number far outliers enter dens bereft of our presence for untold generations. Coiled in darkness, we lick odors from the balmy air and, sensing an infrared glow, strike. We entwine in shade, our heat a sun gift.

Grey, bare yucca stocks accent the hills’ stark ribs. The level horizon shimmers blue, the air hot and still. Condors trace circles in the cloudless sky. On arid sand and pebbles a pronghorn skull rests, scoured white. Clear and sharp, the rattle sounds.

Before thinking, below knowing, the image, audible, visual, arrives, goes to work and, in belief, there’s a response, a reaction, a response. Abysses are for leaping into rather than over. Yet these leaps remain distinct in their contingent occasions.

Not for lack of sunshine, our range contracts, fragments. The ground holds strange vibrations. The rat increases. Boulders piled down the canyon’s sundown side a few generations ago offer dens. Stream water changes taste. More and more heat.

“This summer, on a canyon hike, my wife and I stopped still: a rattlesnake, crossing the trail, almost as thick as the old water pipe it was crawling over. Biggest rattler we’ve seen. To scoot by the spot where it vanished, we hugged the other side of the path.”

Poetry: © Robert Savino Oventile 2023
Photography: © Susan Hopkins

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