Published in Written River #10
Trailing the grey heron awhile
along the shoreline, noticing
its two failed attempts, then—
with lightening-strike precision,
its catch of the silver streak—how
I applaud her skill, not for one instant
pitying the fish. Later,
watching one silver streak break free
of the sea for a split moment,
jump for an insect or breath
of fresh air, I applaud it,
not for an instant pitying the insect.
Now I reflect:
Where was my compassion?
The grey heron—stalking, stalling,
keeping still along the shore’s sill,
two small girls running toward it—
suddenly lifts off to float in the air
further down the coast to land
and stand alone again, waiting.
And I, watching, finally aware
of my deepest desire, am filled
by this most ordinary, close-at-hand
heron, the truest most real thing
I’ll see all day. Vapors of oil
flares hovering on the horizon
beyond this hushed blush of grey,
which I become
for a few glorious moments
before two little girls intrude,
dashing over the salt water-weathered
stones to cross the runnel between
heron and human. The heron’s
all-sufficient life—total lack
of regret—to be envied.
How she gives me a sacred sense
of peace and transcendence
till the yellow-tinged vapor hovering
above the horizon becomes incense.
Diana Woodcock’s first full-length collection, Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders, won the 2010 Vernice Quebodeaux Pathways Poetry Prize for Women. Her second book, Under the Spell of a Persian Nightingale, was released in 2015. Chapbooks include Beggar in the Everglades, Desert Ecology: Lessons and Visions, Tamed by the Desert, In the Shade of the Sidra Tree, Mandala, and Travels of a Gwai Lo. Prior to teaching in Qatar (since 2004), she worked for nearly eight years in Tibet, Macau and on the Thai/Cambodian border.