—for my grandmother, Ella
Jogging the track in early morning hush, trucks in the distance
ripping up concrete, I remember my grandmother, how she told of
standing in the New York subway, two small sets of hands in her own,
how she wanted to throw herself onto the tracks, but their faces
peered up at her, those sad, empty mouths, and this stopped her. I
wonder now how she made it through, how she forced herself to turn
on the tap, scraping last night’s dishes. How she sewed
and sewed until her skin cracked. A great blue heron
wings into the center of the wet field, its body an
exclamation point, neck like a pencil, turned toward the east.
Its elegance unmoors me and I turn back every few
seconds to watch it glide without touching ground, like the stone
statue game I used to play in the woods by the creek.
The heron elongates, plumage a steely gray touched by the sky.
How do we keep from throwing ourselves in? How do we stand
still and listen? Blue heron jabs her beak into the moist grass, throws back
her serpentine neck, oblivious to my presence. She could be the center
of everything, all of us rotating in concentric orbits, spinning
with the shifting light, flailing our arms in a dance of form and shadow.
Now the heron hears a noise, opens her wings, lifts the sun over
my head. My feet dig into the soil, my voice in that other
lifetime, so quiet, begging to be released.