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Egrets in a Pasture 

gray on gray in morning
white on green at noon
glowing coral in the gloaming
gone by night

 

so many egrets in the pasture
now as winter nears feeding together
still slow steps
sudden spear staving hunger
indifferent in their scattered flock
swallowing frogs and gophers
or picking maggots from the dung

 

looking up I see the honkers rise
from the bottoms to the dune
flapping wing to wing
each a unit of the whole
as in the other's blind
jostle squawk scramble
the V taking shape then losing squadrons
coming apart at the turns
spawning smaller Ms and Ws
that surge and straighten to another V

 

but these stilted specters in the thistle
single flames atop impossible stems
do not seem to know each other
as if they are the same bird
each in a different part of its own life
then as I watch I see
that they are moving like the geese
aware without the fanfare of their place
but more the space between them as they graze
they take no heed of me
I think they know about the fence
a patch of safety for their quest
zoned and plotted not yet subdivided
plowed and fallowed remnant of a meadow
of which they do not know and would not care
a movement in the mud the pulsing prey
is all their flight-bred minds are focused on
but fly they will when darkness hides their chase
across the bottomland and bay
together mostly silent and alone
to light upon the boughs of home.

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Michael Bickford

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