This week’s poem in the Catholic Poetry Room is by Jim Daniels.
I saw the Great Blue Heron today,
still, above the flat horizon, staring
as I passed on my bike. Some mornings
I admit, I scare it into rising just to see
those wide whispering wings spread
over grape vines clenched into earth
in bright green rows. Nothing is here
for my amusement. The heron fishes
in the small stream where the narrow road
turns. Easy pickings. Today, I don’t scare it.
My son dropped sticks off the narrow bridge
into that stream twenty years ago—a man now,
and I’m sad for it on days like this. Thousands
of miles away, he sings songs I’ve never heard.
Look, I’d say to him, and point. He’s not here
for my amusement, getting on with it, screwing up,
muddling through. We used to watch current carry
those twigs till they disappeared. Sometimes
it’s so quiet, I can hear wings. The heron, straight,
graceful pin above flatlands along the stream.
To dig our roots deeper, or to fly? How to hide
nests, protect our young? My son is tall some-
where out there. We build nests one thin stick
at a time. The sticks never disappear. I don’t
want to live far from water. My amusement
is finite. Leaves on the vines redden
and wither while elsewhere fruit ferments
into wine. It’s an old story, I know,
but teach me the words, my son.
Jim (Ray) Daniels is the author of seventeen books of poems, including, most recently, Rowing Inland and Street Calligraphy. His latest book of fiction, The Perp Walk, was published by Michigan State University Press in 2019, along with his coedited anthology, RESPECT: The Poetry of Detroit Music. During his long career, he has warmed up for Lucinda Williams at the Three Rivers Arts Festival, read on Prairie Home Companion, had his poem “Factory Love” displayed on a racecar, and sent poetry to the moon with the Moon Arts Project. Awards include the Tillie Olsen Prize, the Brittingham Prize, the Milton Kessler Poetry Prize, two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and many others. He is the Thomas S. Baker University Professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where he lives with his wife, the writer Kristin Kovacic.