Transported who knows why or whence
He was simply there one spring-
The bird who came to dinner and stayed.
Of course we couldn’t help wonder about him.
What was that great regal marsh-dwelling creature
Doing there among the bread-begging mallards
In the tame little duckpond of the Japanese garden
At the city-run, hedge-clipped Brooklyn Botanic?
For what a presence he was, that snow-white fisherman
With the long golden beak and the black stick legs,
Whether preening his wind-riffled feathers
As he stood on his bright-orange water temple
(That pi-shaped torii that floated like a spirit),
Or flapping prehistorically across the pond
To stalk and stab in the dark water
Plucking with dagger bill a twitching minnow.
Then throwing his head back and staring sunward
Like a savage white priest offering a fish sacrifice.

But why did he stay and stay, week after week?
Was it to speak somehow for the fitness of things,
For that awful power that floats though unseen among us
Joining deep to deep, Japanese bird to Japanese garden?
"American egret," after all, was only his birdbook name;
In essence and epiphany he was the East:
Serene, contemplative, ceremonious, animistic.
He spoke even in the silence of his torii
(Japanese: bird-home; tori, bird, iru, to dwell).
Bird, angel, ancestral voice, he spoke in white flame,
Calling from the East, calling from Eden,
Calling in beauty to the lost children of Paradise.

Articles by John D. Martin

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