In the mud flats
I found my perch on a fallen branch,
to catch the winter afternoon sun
blazing in perfect refraction
off the blue-black skin of Lake Accotink.
Fatigued by fluorescent lighting and
fractured into shards
by screens in square rooms
I come here, as I often do,
to put myself back together
in the company of water and birds
on a lowly log in the thicket.
Here, winter’s emptiness is fulsome–
The loose sharp air
The softly rocking water
The staccato crackle from the marshy island in the middle
where black spiky birds fuss
and erupt periodically in crescendos.
From her high nest on the tulip poplar
the Bald Eagle plunges into her grand circle
slicing through the air,
scattering a retinue of wing birds,
steely eye on the still snake
sunning in the brush.
Below, mute turtles poke their silhouetted necks
in different directions,
alert but indifferent
to the scolding Canada geese.
The Great Blue Heron lurks
at the lake’s edge
imperceptible almost, among grey rocks,
until sudden, immense spring uncoiling,
she stretches her wings into waves of flight.
An amber ant, tiny and translucent,
ambles down a blade of last year’s dried grass.
A red cardinal’s gaudy flash appears in the golden brush.
Finches leave traces of whispers
moving air in the dried leaves.
The kerfuffle in the rookery,
sweet trills, hidden rustling in the brush,
beak knocking bark,
Wash me in wordless comfort.
Animal senses piqued
in pulse, gut, cells, and sinew,
from ancient imprints in the throat and ear
evolved over eons
in this same sunlight.
A few genetic removes apart, all of us
swelling in giddy delight
in the afternoon rays,
longing for longer days,
sniffing for spring,
The unobtrusive, spirited lives of the lake
seeking refuge in this space,
mud yielding to water,
a cordoned vestige of what was once
a natural world that inhaled deeply
and held out hands of grace.
Across the lake a leaf blower’s roar
rips out from beyond the thickets,
where the suburbs have straightened out wooded hills
into square lawns
and black tar miles
of squat, concrete obtrusions
with glass facades
that offer tricky imitations of sky and trees,
so birds fearlessly fly to their hard deaths.
This rectilinear world
that men have remade in their image
technological muscle flexed,
respecting no natural grace,
employs any violence for endless taking–
levers primed to bend and bow nature down,
blow out its bowels for ores and oil
and blanket endless acres in bitter chemicals.
Cordoned inside glass walled palaces
that glower with light at all hours,
men sit, removed from their own nature,
tapping out calculations of value on keyboards
their ears deadened to bird song;
pulses lethargic; forgetting to race
at the mighty flight of the heron with delicate wings.
If they could, they would
send in heavy machinery
to drain the lake, dig up the trees,
eviscerate muddy islands of bird chatter;
slash the tulip poplars’ sway
build out lines of concrete walls
blocks of houses
for sale in three model choices.
All the houses in the world are no home
when we have stripped
the majesty of sunsets on the water,
the rustling of birds and the quiet ants;
No refuge remains
when we unmake our home.
We would imagine ourselves proud kings,
with machines and guns,
But we are only
in the eyes of our beholders–
rude dominaters, uncaring, unmoored from our own nature
as the smallest bees we poison.
In the mud flats by the lake,
I cannot turn
from the hawk holding up the sky,
the eagle’s flight through dazzling, tumbling planes,
the quiet mysteries of birds and turtles
When the cardinal sings irrepressibly,
it is to the invisible, spirited lives, and to us,
lifting the song coiled up in my heart.
To be human is animal,
self is every species borne
of the same womb,
our blood of this same soft substrate,
soil, water, cell, and sinew
drawn by hands of grace
A mother’s endless wellspring of love.
Her ancient calculus tends to limits
of reciprocity and respect.
She offers infinite wealth,
that we would cut, and ravage,
and imagine we are richer
in the taking.