Click on any photo to enlarge all.
Egrets in Benito Juarez Park
By threes and fours, they soar in and alight
on sparse branches of the bent, high-spreading trees.
Below them the steady beat of dribbling basket balls
whose rhythms they punctuate with high-pitched squawks.
A hundred or more now bark like gulls,
protesting each new arrival perched too near
and settle invisible against a sky that’s glazed so pale
by torn white clouds,
that it’s barely a different color
From clouds and egrets.
A feather floats down, soars sideways
to rest under the green bench.
and I retrieve it, like a message from a saint.
More birds soar in,
their legs like two black straws held parallel and horizontal.
On limb after limb, they stand exposed, flapping wings,
with neck first fragile,
then settled into a dowager’s hump.
Once motionless, they, too, become
invisible above the shouts of children,
rebound of a ball against a backboard,
hum of generator, blast of horn, peal of church bell.
Thirty more birds attempt the impossible—
to fill gaps in a tree where no gaps exist—
like a Christmas tree with not one single limb left to ornament.
Birds lift, sift to a different tree.
Now that the stronger limbs are taken,
they perch on swinging branches,
then move to safer perches,
displacing other birds
that drift in turn until more trees fill.
Wave after wave,
on tree after tallest tree,
they settle again to silence.
This happened before we came,
will continue after I leave.
These trees alive with birds that were,
scant hours ago,
Returning to the posada where I last stayed with you,
I climb staircase after staircase
past the stone room that was ours.
This is the trip I dreaded–
thought I’d never make.
I remember everything:
all the places where we’d been—
the park, the hotel and the plaza,
each favorite cafe made holy from past associations.
Yet I hold only
one feather from the egret,
crenellations of the room across the courtyard where we stayed.
the saxophonist, improved since I was here with you,
filling in the intervals between
one dog barking from a rooftop down below
and far off dogs, his accompaniment.
The saxophone spins out lines
the staffs of music a communication
between then and now and what remains
after the birds have flown,
after the saxophone is laid to rest
mute in its coffin, wooden tongue dried stiff.
What remains after the barking dog,
after the stairway crumbles, and the stars have cycled into another sky.
What remains as my life soars away from you,
your stillness framing my flight,
as you stretch invisible,
yet as solid around me
San Miguel de Allende, 2001. Click on any photo to enlarge all.
To see a companion poem and photos, go HERE.