Sandhill Cranes

 

From a mirage lake

They emerge

 

And promenade the summer acres:

 

Four gray ghosts of Eras past,

 

Dinosaur specters

Thinned by the thermals

Of a fever dream.

 

If you are not hallucinating

You are the hallucination.

 

It is a visitation

Of sandhill cranes.

 

**

 

These visitors

From another Earth,

 

Risen on stilts

From their own ashes,

 

In a processional dance

Of stately steps and bows

While probing the turf for insects,

 

Their pinched

Vigilant gazes

In carmine wedges

Of ceremonial paint—

 

These quick-tempered

Jurassic yard ornaments,

 

Narrow enough

To have slipped past the door

Closing on the theropods:

 

Do they wonder

Who brokered the peace

Of this desolate dreamscape

Where everything and nothing is strange—

 

This overlap of two worlds,

Both unaccountable,

Of their persistence

And our ascendancy?

 

**

 

You: a giant pygmy,

 

Too overgrown

To be tyrannized;

 

Your presence is countenanced

With spiteful indifference.

 

But what’s that cresting

The grassy hillock?

 

The phantom spinsters

Freeze in alarm.

 

Some saber-toothed megafauna

From their Pleistocene nightmares?

 

A riding mower

Of the Anthropocene.

 

And even more than the fear,

The outrageous strangeness:

 

It finally can’t be forgiven

By these travelers as homeless

In space as in time.

 

They never had the language they taught us,

And raise the clamor of bellowing mutes

 

As they extend their funereal wings

 

And take prehistorically

To the air

 

(You always forget they can fly):

 

A horridly harsh

And dry sobbing

 

Like the levering

Of a pump-handle

On a wellhead rusted for ages—

 

To draw from the arid depths

A single primordial tear

 

Of infinite weariness

 

Of unquenchable outrage

 

Of eternal longing

 

Of perfect mystification.