The pink of her plumage

is borrowed from the shells of shrimp she

snaps from the muddy grasses, as step-by-step

she extends her stride across

a kingdom not river, not sea,


safe because she is a replica

of another and another, copies every one.

She gazes, She gazes again,

                        a hunger

of no cunning, a swimmer of no depth.

Even her beauty is doubtful—

peering, straightening,

she drips water from a beak

too bent to be a weapon too mute for song.

Emptily alert, she is


as tall as she needs to be

to attend to the multitude

that feeds in salt-shallows trodden green,

rises to cloud the sun,

and descends again to

reedy afterthought. Nothing is hers.

Michael Cadnum has published nearly forty books. His new collection of poems, The Promised Rain, is in private circulation. He lives in Albany, California.

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Published in the May 15, 2015 issue: View Contents
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