Sitting on our deck with my coffee this morning, I saw the thick, broken branch of an oak suddenly stir then fly away into a bark-colored hawk. Each wing unfolded like a fan, bordered by a thin white stripe visible only in flight.
Back at my desk again, I wrote down what I saw before that picture could fade. Then I read the above lines aloud, noticing how anapests (u u S or _ _ / ) changed up the rhythm and how the sentence got a little alliterative with its succession of K’s and W’s.
Despite the distractions of those sounds, the sight of a metaphor in flight stayed in my mind’s eye. You’ll see those visual comparisons more and more, too, each time you look for a way to compare this with that as you revise your poems.
If your comparison shows the hawk as a branch, that’s a metaphor.
If your comparison says the hawk is like a branch or similar to one, that’s a simile.
Poetry in the Bible abounds with figurative language that religiously trains the eye to see metaphors almost everywhere. For an excellent example, read the first chapter of Ezekiel and count the times you spy the words “like,” “likeness,” or “something like a __.”
You’ll find a bunch of metaphoric examples in Revelation, too, or almost any visionary place a poet tries to describe something that’s unknown in terms people know, relate to, and readily envision.