Dead Heron

by Jack Bedell

It startles me to find it pinned to barbed wire
on the edge of some pasture in southwest Arkansas
so far from water it could only have been mistaken.
Its blue feathers lift in the wind;
its head bends sideways languidly, a sketch
from Audubon’s notebook. Nothing in the field
seems to welcome it.
                                     Back home, these birds
are ancestors gliding across the salt marsh
between cypress knots, spearing mullet
and spreading into the summer wind for their mates.
They move toward the sky with sincerity.

Here, there is no dignity in its decay —
ants eating its grace from inside out,
hornets and bettles burrowing into it.
Whatever ghost its tendons held in life
must surely find it shameful suspended on land,
dry and falling to earth piece by piece.

Only a visitor myself, it is
the least I can do to pry it down and keep it
with my gear until I can set it free to glide
on the first river I come to.

Jack B. Bedell was born and raised in south Louisiana. He earned his B.A. and M.A. from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches before attending the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, where he earned his M.F.A. He now teaches at Southeastern Louisiana University where he serves as Editor of Louisiana Literature. His first book, At the Bonehouse, won the 1997 Texas Review Prize, and his chapbook, What Passes for Love, was the winner of the 2000 Texas Review Chapbook Competition.

from What Passes for Love (Texas Review Press), © 2001 by Jack B. Bedell. Used by permission of the author.