In the past, I have asked for what this may be,
more faithfully perhaps,
haven’t I, for some covenant of intimate favor
waiting along a byway?
So how then should it be seen, what begins as just
a blue, late morning crease
between heavy rains, noticing the usual roadside toll
of dark’s itinerant deer
and foolhardy raccoons, reticent miles without towns?
Now in moments
of determined light on slowly brightening copse,
such absence of profundity like birdsong in autumn,
is still an ellipsis.
And yet how can that be of something so infinitely finite
as ripe alluvion
sweeping groves of cypress trees, one in particular
so thoroughly bleached with egrets
that its evergreen can scarcely be imagined?
Yet dozens of them
paying me no mind, waiting for water levels to drop,
and I not truly knowing
what they mean on this route are nonetheless together
in the suddenness of passing.
What abstractions of holiness we are always asked
to read and understand
as if in the brevity of even a hundred years
we might grasp
from where all the starlings one day fall in harmony
with shadows and leaves,
how we stray through phases of grace.
But these egrets
in transcendent whiteness appear not to weigh notions
of good and sin,
and though reverently steady, seem thankful for anything other
than no present threat from above or below.
They are hungry, or tired, or content to have others about.
Yet stark in their whiteness,
there’s never anything to regret or forgive,
nothing more necessary
than fishing, their brood. None flutter and primp
like we would expect
in one of Audubon’s wild clusters. Instead
they pose, poised as if
on a scroll for meditation, accompaniment to haiku.
Nothing in this morning’s
static of banked cloud ruffles the nuptial plumes,
not a rising flood of litter
and duckweed swirled around their roost, nor I
in my clumsy Keatsian desire
to join their approval of our whole imperfect world.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.