So many of the late arrivals tonight
are egrets, the Cattles long in
among the reeds and brush sharing
space, only reluctantly, with the ibis.
It is their snowy cousins who arrive
as the horizon is a fading band
of orange gold dissipating under the
faint, unyielding eye of Venus,
and seem shocked when they
are turned away with flap of wing
and cry, warned by the perching
anhinga that in this preserve
the inn fills quickly, and in January
there is no nearby manger
to be found, so you’d best
make avian friends, for morning
arrives all too quickly enough.
Walking through a nature preserve
like Wakodahatchee Wetlands you
must always keep a sharp eye.
The birds are everywhere, they are
unavoidable and even the alligators,
imagining themselves coy are
soon enough easily recognized,
snouts appear just above the surface
wary eyes scanning the shore.
Here you are also surrounded
by poems, but they are far more
able to hide, among the eggs
the wood stork carefully tends,
in the purple iridescence
of the gallinule, trailing behind
the uplifting wings of the great
blue heron as she lifts skyward,
and in the spray of feathers
the snowy egrets dangle always
drawing our eyes like a bride’s
diaphanous veil, but we, at
a loss for words in the midst
of all of this, cannot see them
awaiting us to give them flight
My wife pauses by the placard
in the nature preserve and tells me
that what I have been calling grasses
are in fact a sedge known as sawgrass.
She points out the warning that
it’s serrated on the edge and earned
its name from those who grasped
it without knowing or thinking first.
I feign listening but she knows
my mind is elsewhere, knows I often
depart conversations suddenly
while maintaining a false presence.
She does not know I am 40 years
younger, pouring hydrogen peroxide
on the cut deep into the interossei
muscles when the glove slipped off
and the yucca I was boldly trying
to pull from the dry, stone like soil
had decided this was the moment
to extract its final revenge.
We can sit for a time, and speak
of our pains, how they cause us
to stop and look inward while the world
proceeds on it’s axis, in a slow march
through time and space, and we
share the anger and anguish
of our too fallible bodies which
time reclaims in slow progression.
We do not pause and cast eyes
on the egrets, heron and ibis returning
for the night as the retreating sun
paints the clouds in colors known
best to flames consuming all,
to wings flapping as perches are
taken adjusted, as conversations
are continued while night settles
slowly over the preserve, the birds
marvel at how we allow ourselves
to be absent from the simple
beauty of the world that surrounds us.
We sit on our lanai, which
the birds will tell you is
the backyard of their preserve
and watch the sun bid
its blazing farewell to this day.
The birds begin their scheduled
return, ibis in groups,
the self-declared top guns
flying in hot and flat, only
dropping their arrestor hook
as the approach the deck.
The egrets fly in solo
carefully circling, then
extending their landing gear
until they gently alight
and await their next mission
which will come with dawn.
Through it all the anhinga
perch on the bare branches,
offering their direction, happy
to play air traffic controller,
but the limpkins find
my whole metaphor foolish
and too loudly let me know.
The sun slowly starts
it’s daily retreat, setting
the thinning clouds ablaze.
The birds return, ibis,
egrets, anhinga and kite
and even the limpkin
march slowly across
the lawn to the preserve
that abuts our yard.
They take up their perches
on the trees and bushes
and on the limpkin’s call
begin quietly to recite
their evening prayers
as we bow our heads
in reverence to their faith
that the new morning
will soon dawn for us all.