The Heron’s Cry

An old man comes awake in the sibilance

of a still night, when the beading in a mist

frets the eaves.  By the bed a golden lab

cocks its head at the night, holding back

a second bark.  It could be anything:

a car, a possum, a stray breath of wind,

a son home late—no, that was years ago.

  A tide of cold air runs across the floor,

and he forgot his slippers.  The staircase crackles

like burning pine, and the lab with its hackles

raised is already waiting by the door.

He tells the dog to hush and smoothes the fur.

Quietly he lifts the latch and breaks the seal

of the familiar, and the scent of fields

freshly furrowed reminds him, a moment late,

the dog will run.

                               The brick is cold and wet

on his bare feet.  The damp air has the feel

of a boat, and beyond the earth's dark swell

lies the grey cocoon of the empty bay.

In two months we'll be landlocked in a sea

of corn, he thinks, and listens for the grate

and roar of sheaves.

                                Near the shore an ancient weight

lifts from the marsh on slow wingbeat, trailing

over the breathless water a neat talon

that tears the membrane of reflected sky.

Heron, he says, when he hears its ragged cry.