A Decade Later

I wade Mayapple and toothwort
hunting a spindly trunk of wahoo
with its tiny bells and lemon clappers
as a cool breeze carries a sharp slap of flat black tail
as I near the old dam and a beaver sounds
banks full of candle cuts their cozy home
full of kits downstream

suddenly shadows drape my face
as two Great Blue Herons circle
overhead in absolute silence
no hoarse call of greeting or warning
patterned soaring a sure sign
of nearby nest(s) so that I freeze
begin to scan the canopy ahead
until I see them at least six stick nests
round loosely woven aeries
where groups of herons come together
to raise their young a female standing
tall to survey my threat as I whisper

I’m going, I’m going stepping silently
backward on the game trail I’d followed
with a full heart realizing that I’d found
this heronry after ten years of absence
the old one in a sycamore grove gone
to gravity age and owls jutting jagged
Into the sky where I’d first seen pale
blue eggs along a gravel bar beneath

I pick up the track of the big cat
pad marks deep enough to measure
stride and weight a perfect cast
in freshly turned loam cougar’s route
predictable leading back to an old den
beneath the chinquapin parallel to
broken hearts of buck and doe stepping
alongside moving from graze to graze

this time and place secret covenants
creeks and woods titles birds and trees chapters
where I fan leaves like worn pages
reading again these treasured chapters
made new with each season we share.