[from Anne Pierson Wiese's Floating City, 2007, winner of the Walt Whitman Award]
Profile of the Night Heron
In the Brooklyn Botanic Garden the night
heron is on his branch of his tree, blue
moon curve of his body riding low
above the pond, leaves dipping into water
beneath him, green and loose as fingers.
On the far shore, the ibis is where
I left him last time, a black cypher
on his rock. These birds, they go to the right
place every day until they die.
There are people like that in the city,
with signature hats or empty attaché cases,
expressions of private absorption fending
off comment, who attach to physical
locations — a storefront, a stoop, a corner,
a bench — and appear there daily as if for a job.
They negotiate themselves into the pattern
of place, perhaps wiping windows, badly,
for a few bucks, clearing the stoop of take-out
menus every morning, collecting the trash
at the base of the WALK/DON’T WALK sign
and depositing it in the garbage can.
Even when surfaces change, when the Mom & Pop
store becomes a coffee bar, when the park
benches are replaced with dainty chairs and a pebble
border, they stay, noticing what will never change:
the heartprick of longitude and latitude
to home in on, the conviction that life
depends, every day, on what outlasts you.