Dry water

She’d been beautiful when young.
Beautiful like a piece of land in its natural state.
Unfenced, unfarmed.
He hadn’t known her then, but he’d seen pictures,
and they were more than enough.

The age we are when we die
is the age we are forever until we are forgotten
or everyone who has ever known us
or continues to remember us
also dies.

There are exceptions,
but these are only by a matter of margin.
Shakespeare will disappear.
George Best go west. Judi Dench be released
from the hold of human history.
As will human history itself.
And then history.
At least as we understand it.
The water will dry.
Known sounds fall to silence.

A heron once stood on the side of a man-made lake
in an office park in Itasca, Illinois.
It was a little past three on a Monday afternoon.
October. Sun was out.
He was fishing.
Or doing what men also mainly do
when engaged in the business of hoping to catch fish.

Waiting. He was entirely still.
A matter which made the couple walking
along the path that circles around the lake
take notice of him.
He did not make eye contact.
Would not.
Did not take his eyes off out in front,
the water and the lake.

He was not concerned obviously that they might rush up to him
from behind and throw a sack over his head.
Not tame as such, but not bothered.
Or perhaps he was bothered, at least a bit,
but more than anything and with dinnertime approaching
he did not want to move and thus be seen by the fish
who themselves by the man and woman, the couple,
could not be seen.

A slight risk of capture or attack, of death,
at one end of the sum,
and the specific and certain intention
to kill and eat at the other.

After a minute they moved on,
kept going with their walk.
A little exercise before an early dinner of other animals
(some parts of birds, wings) already killed
and brought previously to this location of their choosing.
A Westin hotel.

Of the heron, which was made and born,
survived this far and efficiently,
nothing else is known or connected to this slight contact
which in itself became for an undetermined amount of time
a memory for the two people who saw it.

I don’t know how long herons last for.
There are many things that are uncertain about them.
It was a good-sized bird.

Now and at home, later, out on the back porch
the man has been distracted by a palmetto bug.
If you ask him at this precise moment
about the heron he saw one afternoon in Itasca, Illinois
he would say that he remembers it.
Quite well.

Although if you don’t bring it up there’s every chance that no one else will
from now until the end of time and, barring one or two coincidences
that could occur but are unlikely to,
he would never think of the heron and that afternoon again.
And thus it wouldn’t be forgotten,
but it wouldn’t be remembered either.

Same with the palmetto bug
for in this instance nothing happens to do with it
within the period that the man is watching.

It waits, it waits, and then scuttles off
with a rapid stop and start motion.
This is probably almost exactly the time
when his wife, the woman, dies upstairs.
He sits there some more.
Wondering only if the bug will get eaten before morning.

In the rest of his future he won’t think to himself
about this twenty minutes or so that is now elapsing
between the palmetto bug leaving,
his wife leaving, his own considerations as to when the palmetto bug
may or may not be permanently leaving
and then the going upstairs
and the finding out that his wife has left.

 

 

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The Ojibwe name for “Lake Itasca” was Omashkoozo-zaaga’igan (Elk Lake); this was changed to “Itasca”, coined from a combination of the Latin words veritas (“truth”) and caput (“head”), though it is sometimes misinterpreted as “true head.”

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