I stop when I see it standing there,
smoky blue in low waters, a bird
Modigliani might have invented.
Without thinking, I take on its stillness.
My breathing slows, focus sharpens.
Is it telepathy that shapes me,
for a moment, in this bird’s image?
And then it leaps into flight, its wings
too large to believe. Unnerving,
its sudden change from slender statue
to menacing motion, to a density
and darkness that makes the pale sky
seem a paltry thing. And though I am
earthbound, clumsy and plain,
something hushed and unsullied
stirs within me. I feel it, the belief
that we can rise above the weight
of our mistakes, that any of us can be,
if only briefly, large against the sky.
I look toward the island in this pond,
where a birch tree leans over water.
On an extended branch the heron lands,
becomes another limb set against
evening sky. Like smoke, that bird
transformed itself and I am trying to believe it,
that we can do it too, and that a place
of safety waits for each of us,
white branch hanging over water.
This poem first appeared in Everybody Says Hello (Grayson Books, 2009)
Used here with the author’s permission.