Poems

No Heron

Herons are bigger than egrets, though they have the same long legs. My father said one with an eight-foot wingspan flew over his boat. I would like to be shadowed by something that big. It would seem

like poetry, just out of reach, moving and making a bare flush of wings, and I would think of it long after, the way it was heading away from me. My longing would not be satisfied even if I could

grab its scrawny legs in my hand, even if it nuzzled up to me. I would be looking up the origin of heron with my free hand, and when I read Greek, to creak, and Old High German, to scream,

I would wait for it to begin, but it would not say anything to me in this boat which I am not in, but at my desk hoping for the heron, a big one, as I said, so I can say, “Wow, look at that!” as if I were

getting up a circus. Out there are herons white and blue, not really blue but smoky, with wings bigger than their bodies, dipping and standing motionless beside lakes and rivers. Out there are universes

expanding until the space between atoms is too far to do anyone any good. Thus, somewhere this minute one heron is calculating the distance between his beak and a fish, the way it shifts. It is

as if he travels in space until heron and fish are swallowed into each other. There is no heron at my desk. In fact, the absence of heron is how I would define my study: no heron on the ceiling,

no heron on the floor, no heron on the wall, so that of course I think of nothing but heron, how it floats its weight on one leg, for example, flying that way even when it’s not.

—from Reunion (2007)