by David Baker

heron is gray, not blue, but great enough
against brown-tipped bowed cattails to be
well-named, is known for its stealth, shier
than a cloud, but won’t fly or float away
when it’s scared, stands there thinking maybe
it’s invisible though it’s not—tall, gray,
straight as a pole among the cloudy reeds.
Then it picks up one stem leg. This takes time.
And sets it down just beyond the other,
no splash, breath of a ripple, goes on
slowly across the silt, mud, algae-
throttled surface, through sedge grass,
to stand to its knees in water turning
grayer now that afternoon is evening.
Now that afternoon is evening
the gray heron turns blue, bluer than sky,
bluer than the mercury blue-black still pond.
So when did it snag the bullfrog
hanging, kicking, in its scissor beak?
To look so long means to miss the sudden.
It strides around like a sleek cat
from pond to bank and back, blue tall bird,
washing the frog, banging it against stones,
pecking almost as if it doesn’t know
what to do now that it’s caught such a thing.
How fast its beak must be to shoot out
like an arrow or that certain—as it’s called—
slant of light. Blue light. Where did it go?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Baker received degrees in English from Central Missouri State University before earning a Ph.D. in English from the University of Utah in 1983. His first collection of poems, Laws of the Land, was published in 1981, followed by Haunts  in 1985. Since then, Baker has published many collections of poetry and is the author of three books of criticism. Among Baker’s awards are fellowships and prizes from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Ohio Arts Council, Poetry Society of America, Society of Midland Authors, and the Pushcart Foundation. He is currently a Professor of English and the Thomas B. Fordham Chair of Creative Writing at Denison University and is a faculty member in the M.F.A. program for writers at Warren Wilson College. Baker currently resides in Granville, Ohio, where he serves as Poetry Editor of The Kenyon Review.

Illustration: “Great Blue Heron,” Chinese brushwork painting on silkboard by Tracey Allyn GreeneThe Chinese calligraphy along the left is a Yosa Buson haiku, “Evening wind: water laps the heron’s legs.” Visit Tracey’s web page here.