What does the name for it matter?
It was just a bird, a giant bird,
suddenly landing on the white sand
and then, as if its occasion were both
remarkable and unremarkable,
it paraded alongside the waves,
a small fish in its beak, dinner
and prize. If you’re going
to photograph me, it lifted its knee
like a rockette, at least get my good
side. Though what side of something
so graceful, so momentary could be
bad? I stood with the crowd,
beachgoers with camera phones
and to-go margaritas. We each
wanted to capture it – the delicacy
of feathers, the brevity of joy, earth
before its collapse. What if
I never see this bird again?
So we name it: heron
its supermodel neck, its body
framed on stilts, and yet
capable of flight, of leaving,
and, if we’re lucky, of coming back.
Emily Lake Hansen (she/her) is the author of Home and Other Duty Stations (Kelsay Books) and the chapbook The Way the Body Had to Travel (dancing girl press). Her poetry has appeared in 32 Poems, Hobart, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Atticus Review, and the Shore among others. The recipient of the 2022 Longleaf Poetry Fellowship, she lives in Atlanta where she is a PhD student at Georgia State University and an instructor of English at Agnes Scott College.