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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.