Great Blue Heron

 

 

The Great Blue Heron

Makes her landfall

At the water’s edge.

 

The curtains

Of her wings

Are drawn,

 

And look:

 

She’s the bird who drank

Half the magic potion

To become a ballerina.

 

Or she’s a Dada combine

Of found objects:

 

Chicken feet

Stilts

Reversed knees

A gray goose

A charmed serpent

A throwing knife

A vaudeville actor’s eyebrows

 

And she’s feathered

And can fly.

 

With preposterous elegance

She stalks the lakeshore,

 

A paranoiac stealth

Of precisely measured strides

She seems to be counting.

 

A lonely hunter

Inked in silhouette

On the blue corrugations

Of the lakewater.

 

The processional hymn stops.

She halts in mid-stride,

 

A petrified Lot’s wife,

 

A dolman

Clocking the final moments

Of something in the shallows.

 

All at once

 She compacts

To a snipe,

 

And waits,

Motionless,

 

For the illusion

Of her presence

To melt away.

 

Then her agonized advance

Inchwise to her quarry

 

In a contortion of malevolence

That could pass for adoration.

 

She arrives!

 

She is still,

 

Eyeing the shallows

Just before her

With hypnotic fascination.

 

And just when she seems

A Narcissus

Of the grotesque


She rears

 

And all grace to the wind

 

As the dagger of her head

Plunges at the water—

 

And like a flung puppet

She follows in

With a full-length splash!

 

Rising in a waterfall

 

She is billing

A broad golden sunfish

Snatched from its nest.

 

How she peers about

With her prize!

 

Her marvelous theft!

 

And no witnesses,

 

Nor an audience

For the carnival act

That follows:

 

Her no-hands jugglery

 

And the swallowing

Of not a sword

But a shield

 

As the flexing sunfish

 

Tossed to

Head-first position

 

Is impossibly mouthed

 

Is unthinkably

Distending her throat

 

—but this is suicide—

 

Before the bream’s

Last

Long

Dismal

Dive

 

Down the bulging neck

 

And into the gullet.

 

Appalling.

 

A ritual humiliation,

 

And she stands stuporous

Against the water,

 

Dangerously inner-directed,

 

The anorexic ballerina

In postprandial disgust….

 

You leave the lakefront window

And appear on the porch,

 

And instantly

The crazed prehistoric gaze

Is upon you.

 

Never has this wayfarer

Endured your proximity

For more than a moment.

 

She’s too lost in time

To learn how to trust

Like the resident swans.

 

And she’s the Great Blue Heron, after all.

 

This blue-blooded heiress

Who was left with nothing.

 

This solitary priestess

Of the Eternal Loneliness.

 

This Giacometti theropod

Whittled to nearly nil—

 

A touring abstract sculpture

That flees approaching admirers.

 

At the sight of you

She packs up her art,

 

And with a Jurassic squawk

As homeless as she

 

Opens the cape of her wings

 

And solemnly flaps away,

 

To install the Great Blue Heron

On lonelier shores.

 

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