Still As A Heron

Turn over a canoe and in three days it is
a spider subdivision. It is hard to imagine
their wasted effort by the time the canoe is
floating gently toward the island of
spongy mud. Last year it was completely
submerged. But this year in the shallows
around it we can see the black and white backs
of the loons diving underwater for minnows.
A turtle reconsiders its perch in the sun.
A beaver shows a tail flip after we enter
an agreement to back away from it.
Yet, as we glide by, nothing is as still
as the heron. It is lifeless like the scare-duck
ornament we take it to be at first.
It waits for us to match its canniness and
guile, to remain frozen until it resumes
its prowl. But we lose the contest of
holding still, and we move on. Our lives will
reprise their highlights and roll along in
their groove even after dinner when the rain
takes over as the entertainment for the evening.
The lights are turned off, and we imagine
living in a teepee on this lake a hundred
and fifty years ago. We swat mosquitoes,
imitate loons, tell stories about the moon’s
disapproval of its reflection. But we are not
authentic. We talk too much. We begin to
stand on one leg and play “still as a heron.”
The thunder grumbles for everyone who plays.
No one is up to the task. No one can stay
standing until morning. No one can speak
except to whisper to the spiders, to ask
forgiveness for destroying their homes.

Tim Kahl is the author of Possessing Yourself (CW books, 2009) and The Century of Travel (CW Books, 2012). His work has been published in journals including Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, Notre Dame Review, The Journal, and Parthenon West Review. He appears as Victor Schnickelfritz at the poetry and poetics blog The Great American Pinup and the poetry video blog Linebreak Studios. He is also editor of Bald Trickster Press and Clade Song. He is the vice president and events coordinator of The Sacramento Poetry Center.
*Photo courtesy of Vicki.
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