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.

Published in the May 15, 2015 issue: View Contents

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

Also by this author
© 2024 Commonweal Magazine. All rights reserved. Design by Point Five. Site by Deck Fifty.