A Writer’s Notebook: an old poem

This is an old poem. I’m still not happy with it. In retyping it here, I’ve made some small changes. Always tinkering.

Sunrise. A cold wind moves only
the surface of this pond. Down in that quiet, muddy mass,
small fish doze while above, a blue heron

stalks through the waters, more tai chi than hunting. Two old men
wade into the reedy far end, cast
lures, stand against the sky. I have come to this small pier

to write a poem. This heron knows
our purposes — mine, the old men’s — looks between the flashing
lines and my wooden rails in the weeds.

The heron unfurls his gray head like a new bamboo leaf,
leans toward the men, then
collapses his tube of a neck like a hook, his black beak low

near the water, as though to explain that
the fish are small and not worth catching. But I have come for
the small. And there’s always the sunrise.

Today, my wife and I went “day camping” out at the confluence of the Willamette and the Columbia. We watched the freighters and barges huff upstream while sport boats and jet skis zipped around tugs. But in between vessels the air and water were calm, the sky a cool blue and filled with migrating geese. At one point a heron soared in low over the lapping wake near the bank, but a dog chasing a tennis ball surprised it and it lifted at the moment it touched water, wheeled away and flew to the treeline on the opposite bank.

That heron reminded me of this poem, which I wrote several years ago in grad school and never did anything with. It still has problems, but I still enjoy the memory it.

Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

3 thoughts on “A Writer’s Notebook: an old poem

    1. Hey, thanks! I have a strained relationship with poetry, and this thing is a good example of why: I keep wanting to cut out words, but every time I do I feel like the poem gets too simple. I want to evoke and wind up explaining. And I could rearrange the line breaks probably forever. In other words, practice has taught me when and why to stop working on a story, but I can never quite let go of a poem — I always want to mess with it, and I’m never satisfied.

      So thanks for the feedback! I might finally leave this poor poem alone! 🙂

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