The Night Heron


(for my dear friend, Jeremy Nathan Marks, a poet of mind-boggling talent, 
for whom this poem has been promised for far too long, though not so 
long perhaps as the lives of poems go...they are ancient things, even 
the young ones, and as Memory is my negative Muse, I can not recall 
exactly where or when this piece began, except that I know it began 
in one of the many enriching conversations I have had with this man.) 




The Night Heron


the night heron stands 
silent as the sea
refuses the sun.

shorebirds' shadows fall 
on deafness like lids.

the sun speaks and you 
see the stars.  the wind 
tells your stories in 
voices of the night.

you hear.  you listen.

you find your roots in 
the reaching branches 
beneath still waters.

broken reeds whistle
a hollow tune in 
the wind and chatter 
like bones in the breeze. 

a clap, and you fly, 
pulling long legs from 
the water dripping
behind you, lighter 
than any great blue,
heavier than light.

we search the sky for 
fish while our branches 
blow in air.  we stand 
knee-deep in wetness
while all the life, all 
the time, is right here.

this song sings itself 
in the sun.  undone things 
thunder as one while 
the elders look on 
mutely and mourn the 
lost morning of man.

this work will never 
be done.  this song can 
never be un-sung.





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13 thoughts on “The Night Heron

    • Thank you Jilanne–I had to come back to it many times during its writing. It’s been in the works for about a year now I think. I think maybe it still doesn’t know what it is or wants to say and yet that is still part of what it is saying.

  1. John, this is so lovely. And I am so honored that you dedicated this to me. This is just superb and I am definitely going to share it.

    You really capture, to my eyes, ears and imagination, the beauty, poise, dignity and character of the night heron. Superb. It was so well worth the wait. This needs to find a home in a journal or. . . allow me to be selfish here. . . our book project?

    • Thank you Jeremy–I am gratified that you like it.
      And yes–the book definitely! Which brings up the subject of being previously “published” or not when it comes to what we are thinking about putting in it. I’ve been meaning to ask if you consider our respective blogs as “published” for these purposes. I admit to having held back some things and it would be nice to let them loose especially in light of your rather prodigious output of late. I shall presume from your comment that you would be ok with using the blog as a “proving ground”?

  2. Reblogged this on The Sand County and commented:
    I love this poem so much. And John is such a great poet. He compliments me but I have to return the favor because it is so deserved.

  3. This just keeps getting better every time I read it. Really, John . . . this is a perfect poem. I like everything in it. It has sound and silence; upside down and right side up imagery; it has history and immediacy. It is just filled with contrasts that all blend together.

    Honestly, this is a perfect poem.

    • Thank you, Joseph. It is good to hear that. This one was a long time coming, and I felt driven to put it up though I still wasn’t sure it was “finished,” so that is good to hear.

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