By Joseph Hesch
The tide is out way downstream
in the great harbor, so the reed-ringed
pool at riverside here is wading depth
for a single spindly-legged heron.
She picks her way around, slowly folding
her leg up then extending it to wakelessly
enter the water in a slow-motion
hunter’s march toward the center
of her soggy dining room. All the while
she searches mightily for crabs and shiners
in its strangely sheened shallows.
Her movements are hard-wired
through uncountable generations
of her kind for whom the Hudson
has been home and larder.
They all walked the same gyre as she,
striding toward the middle of the pool
in successively smaller circles,
as if attached to an ever-shortening string
winding ‘round a pole to its mid-pool end.
But an intruder has claimed the throne there,
and she nervously diverts her attention between it
and the scant dinner darting just beyond her reach.
Blue and broad-chested, the interloper
carries a scent familiar to her now, always
in the air but never so strong as today.
A darning needle hums through the heat,
as a barge glides by, its wake shaking
the outsider to life. Fearful, the natural hunter
beats its wings and surrenders to the leaking
fuel drum that scatters swirling rainbows
across the water and its venom to the
muddy bottom of this realm where once
ruled lean grey princes and princesses.