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Three Poems by John Grey

Naming Rites

Despite their name,

night herons are out in the day,

piercing the lake shoals

with determined black beaks.

A snowy egret flutters plumes

from back to head

in the height of summer.

From the other side of the pond,

the great egret is as small

as my thumb.

Only the great blue heron lives up to its billing,

spreads vast blue-black wings,

stretches its long neck

almost to the height of a man,

then opens its throat wide,

squawks enough to drown the frogs, the crickets.

On this July day,

woods are a mix of truth and paradox,

The mute swan hisses.

The black duck is dark brown.

The bald eagle is crowned

with lush feathers.

But the mockingbird mocks.

The snapping turtle snaps.

And the pleated woodpecker

pecks nothing but wood.

Who can make sense of it?

Oh mother nature,

what is it you've fathered?

January Song

Winter forest,

no bird song,

the cruel heart of migration

beats bloodless along

gray and empty veins.

White on dead apples,

ice teeth biting on dormant roots,

even love crawls into its cave

to sleep.

Skeletons cry out for fire

but only wind answers,

preys on scattered brown leaves,

devours, then spits away.

On the frozen river,

snow adds insult,

scattered birds wheeze open throats,

shriek their hard-won silence.

Field Guide and Crow

As best as I could translate

the crow cawed,

"What's he doing in the woods

with a field guide.

Will you look at that, chickadee.

He's bending down

in the wildflowers,

book held high,

illustrations glossy in the sun.

He's fingering the leaf,

sniffing the flower.

And would you believe it.

He's taken out a pen

and checked off tiger lily."

My wife says

he's just warning

other forest denizens

of our intrusion.

But no, I insist.

He's disturbed at my ignorance.

He's upset that I accumulate

the sighting of

living things like baseball cards.

He's concerned that a crow

is nothing more to me

than a page called 'crow.'

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Mudfish and Spindrift with work upcoming in South Carolina Review, Gargoyle, Sanskrit and Louisiana Literature.

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