Still

Every day at lunch the gray heron
canters down from her branch in the brook

leaving behind turquoise eggs. There were
two birds, but kids killed one with a slingshot, so

now she hooks alone, casting with her giant
beak. Stirring the water with a foot. The legends

tell of what revenge nature will wreak, we’ll
be torn limb from limb, they’ll feast on our necks.

None of this seems true of the heron in the
brook, using her wings to create shade, lure

small fish into the coves made by trash
visitors dump amidst the glades. Cans of Coke,

T-shirts, a dishwasher, an old skirt. It’s become
the breakfast table for her. And us, what are we for?

To watch, mourn, to exclaim gladly?
I’ve nothing to hunt, to trap, nothing

to own, walking these woods with a fading
map, miles from my suburban home.

The heron looks up, and seeing I am neither
prey nor threat, returns to her disguise,

vanishes again in the weeds, standing so still she
is simply a reed, a white bill, two eyes.

John Freeman

Bonjour Vietnam