A great blue heron standing at lagoon’s
edge, his twin self shimmering upside-down,
feet rippling, another long neck and glistening
eye, head cocked to one side, his slicked-back crest
where he’s fallen away. He’s split off a second
soul, and where he steps slowly in the shallows,
rearranging the spilled white streak
of his head, his hunched shoulders shattering
beneath him, I look down from the bridge
to see a white-haired man rising to the surface.

The question is how the leaf-littered current
flows while upside-down firs and live oaks
hold steady. Or if the motionless blue heron
keeps the glitter of his eye fixed on the oily
stillness of a watery surface just because
something of him is looking upwards into
sky. Brown pine needles float past. A faint
chipping of birds breaks off bits of air
as if it were a brittle thing. This is memory
making itself available. This is the shaking
of a friend’s hand bringing a spoon to his mouth.
This is the song trapped in his wife’s mind
because she can no longer speak, while moss
hangs from a tree, swaying above itself
in the unfiltered shadow that ripples
without a sound toward the sluiced sea.

John Allman | Mudlark No. 31
Contents | Watching the Medieval Mystery Plays