I am always watching the single heron at its place alone at water, its open eye, one leg lifted or wading without seeming to move. It is a mystery seen but never touched until this morning when I lift it from its side where it lays breathing. I know the beak that could attack, that unwavering golden eye seeing me, my own saying I am harmless, but if I had that eye, nothing would be safe. The claws hold tight my hand, its dun-brown feathers, and the gray so perfectly laid down. The bird is more beautiful than my hand, skin more graceful than my foot, my own dark eye so much more vulnerable, the heart beating quickly, its own language speaking, You could kill me or help me. I know you and I have no choice but to give myself up and in whatever supremacy of this moment, hold your human hand with my bent claws.
This is the world
so vast and lonely
without end, with mountains
named for men
who brought hunger
from other lands,
of the thick, dark forest of trees
that held each other up,
knowing fire dreamed of swallowing them
and spoke an older tongue,
and the tongue of the nation of wolves
was the wind around them.
Even ice was not silent.
It cried its broken self
back to warmth.
But they called it
ice, wolf, forest of sticks,
as if words would make it something
they could hold in gloved hands,
open, plot a way
This is the map of the forsaken world.
This is the world without end
where forests have been cut away from their trees.
These are the lines wolf could not pass over.
This is what I know from science:
that a grain of dust dwells at the center
of every flake of snow,
that ice can have its way with land,
that wolves live inside a circle
of their own beginning.
This is what I know from blood:
the first language is not our own.
There are names each thing has for itself,
and beneath us the other order already moves.
It is burning.
It is dreaming.
It is waking up.