Friday’s Poem: At the Refuge

Photos by Cynthia Guenther Richardson

First this: brazen bolts of sound

as a multitude of geese strike the right

formation, alarm punctuating sky yet

harbored in a common beauty.

And the order of things alters

as the eagle rises to the hunt

so easy, magnificent.

One more joins, and I stay the urge

to salute or fall on my knees.

It is that tapestry of wild calls,

of bones within feathers like

an architecture of life, of power. Survival.

And then comes a rough-skinned salamander,

auburn and sleek atop dirt, beady eyed, prepared.

I do not touch even with careful toe of boot.

It is sleekness wrapped in poisonous skin.

A pencil-thin, stripey garter snake nestles

between moss and grass,

slips lithe and invisible into harmony

beneath an ancient white oak.

Great branches snag me as my eyes move upward,

lifts my soul to its crown; I am held in its breath,

am granted one spell of peace.

Frogs along the path like country singers,

sing sonorous measures in starts and stops–

a comedy routine, the telegraphed news.

Most of all, this great blue heron.

It stirs from riverbed before I hear it.

Leaps from water, rising with heartstopping wings

in a miracle of elegance and strength,

glides past clouds of winter

to light that spills into this day.

I think of it: laying on its fine back,

moving past edges of this world without falling.

I cannot say more of why this brings me to tears.

I am given this afternoon where

many beings show themselves and

the wetlands let me pass through, and

groves of oaks watch over, naked and unafraid,

and sunlight kind as compassion rests on my skin…

this earth so generous with blessings,

may I not ever, may I not ever forget.

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