Night Herons

Some herons
were fishing
in the robes
of the night

at a low hour
of the water’s body
and the fish, I suppose,
were full

of fish happiness
in those transparent inches
even as, over and over,
the beaks jacked down

and the narrow
bodies were lifted
with every
quick sally,

and that was the end of them
as far as we know—
though, what do we know
except that death

is so everywhere and so entire—
pummeling and felling
or sometimes,
like this, appearing

through such a thin door—
one stab, and you’re through!
And what then?
Why, then it was almost morning,

and one by one
the birds
opened their wings
and flew.

— Mary Oliver

Rookery

surely this is something
only Dr. Seuss would have imagined
hundreds of unkempt stick nests
mere platforms
perched precariously
lined with moss, twigs, pine needles
feathers and prayer
on upper limbs
of condo trees

repaired year after year
some four feet across
others, less stable
only for nerd birds, outcasts

great blue heron
big cranky
long john
blue crane
—whatever its name on
the apartment door—
settles down
folding seven-foot wingspan

even from its lofty perch
bird sticks neck out
keeps watch
for salamanders, frogs, snakes
to be speared like a shish-kebob
(the greedy have been known to die
trying to swallow a fish too large)

suddenly a train roars by
beneath the colony
whistle blows
herons rise from homes
flapping indignation
but return at once
not having locked themselves out —
a bird benefit

— by Jill Sell