Once I Watched a Great White Egret

pilot in from the Pacific over Elkhorn Slough,
smooth as a Buick Riviera on cruise control at dawn,
empty road before it, emptiness behind,

the air still as God. Yet the bird barely flapped
as it swung east, then north, so low
I saw a snake dangling from its beak

like heavy saliva, a surely-dead snake, I thought,
until it wriggled up and tried to slap
the bird. Dead weight. I meant, Dead straight;

funny how words call up a near-twin, jump
the wrong synapse the way Ananda, Hindu word
for bliss, came out demand a when I said it

to my yoga teacher. Perhaps in the brain
everything conceals its inverse. A giant bird,
virtuous in white, sailing a marsh at sunrise

has a look of grace all over it, a word
suggesting dinner, a gracious meal, cover
for the story of food, the business of the kill.


First published in New England Review   Copyright © Beverly Burch

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