Credit: Irene Hsiao

Dear Heron,

Are you one or several? You stand still as a statue or stride through the water, limbs sliding through liquid with scarce a ripple. You stalk through the limpid pond, aloof as a reptile, then strike with switchblade speed to emerge, beak snapping and eyes impassive, a living lump wriggling down your throat. I have stood breathless in the thrall of your strut, marveled at your shadowy reflection, observed you stirring less than the blades of grass ruffling in the breeze. I have seen you skimming with wings outspread, or sometimes felt just the brief resonance of wings as you depart. Predator. Sanctuary. Sparrows, orioles, owls, finches, blackbirds, warblers, gulls, terns, towhees, frigate birds, ducks, geese, flickers, merlins, parakeets, crows—of these, you are the greatest. Great blue heron. You lived through the summer of endless fireworks. You lived through parking lot bass beats and picnic carousing and dense clouds of marijuana. You regurgitated fish guts in the mouths of your young. I have never heard your voice. Among the willows. Among the brush. Among the oaks and maples. Among the ash and poplars. Among the flowering cherries. In fields of Queen Anne’s lace. Next to the bridge. Next to the waterfall. Next to the pavilion. In the light of the moon. As the leaves fell. In the Japanese garden, there is no phoenix, only you. Until we meet again.