The Blue Heron

By Elizabeth Kaur, TIWP Women’s Writing Program

We stopped to pick up the blue heron. It was waiting for us in that California-ware shop at Duncan’s Landing, near the end of the road that leaves Guerneville, the road that hugs the Russian River, winds through coastal redwoods, past the tin hut movie house in Monte Rio then eases into expanding river banks.

The blue heron was still. We placed its metal length across the back seat and strapped it in, then carried on, skirting the river until its astonished mouth opened to the Pacific. We turned north.

I wanted to ask you why, why when you knew there were only days remaining, why you wanted food. There was nothing left to nourish: your long Lincoln-like legs bent; your crushed yet still prideful chest stuttering; your hands that once mixed color and carved marble reaching for nothing and everything. Why were you suddenly hungry?

I walked the bluff. There was really nothing else to do. He appeared, standing silently. Silently against the blue-blue-licked-with-salt sky. Wild grass cuffed his ankles. I stopped. We both waited. Was he really looking at me? His head still, then twitching, then still again. “Hello,” I said. Silence.

When I arrived the afternoon before, the two of you were in bed. She was quiet, curled beside you, looking very small and not at all sad but rather as if you shared a very satisfying secret. I wanted to ask you, does it feel good? her damp breath against your unshaved cheek, her weight not quite pressing into your noble, collapsing body.

The kids had left to chase total darkness promised by the coming full eclipse. But this was an impossible thrill on that gray on gray day. You and your blood and your beloved were inside, inside like the ones who really know this earth. Stay inside they had been taught, stay inside.

He had returned, a sudden and silent sentry at the edge of the Shasta daisy plot. Finally, he flew: beating, flapping, spanned wings lifting his blue-grey length. Your head was in her palms. With eyes wide open, you were gone. The light returned and I wanted to ask you, how did you know it was time?

His metal feet are weighted with stones. His Lincoln-like legs bend backward at the knees. Silently standing, shaded by wind-worn Monterey pines, on this aching coast of the earth.

 

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