Michael Ansara




The talk in the front turns
to reincarnation as I try to follow

painted buntings, rustling underbrush,
hard to see, impossible not to see

once seen, blurs of unlikely Cézanne
color, the blue-green green of the back,

red chest and rump, lapis blue, alchemist blue
of the male head as it sings its defense, no defense

against diminishment, against the cunning of the plain
brown-headed cowbird, thieves who take not

by taking but by leaving their own
unremarkable egg, unremarked in a bunting’s

nest, that woven cup of grass, leaves, and animal
hair; and once hatched, the unbidden intruder

unrecognized, grows strong, voracious, thrusting
aside the smaller painted hunger, color no salvation.


In a tide-swept swamp, itself riven bone,

a hunting egret, white
as the white of a Buddhist band

of mourning, stands frozen, its gaze piercing
the water’s waiting.
Each etched angle, length

of tide-waisted legs, breadth of predatory
beak, ability to see below
the surface—learned calibrations

of those that last. Eons of egrets have stood so:
everything long, locked
in deadly stillness, ready to uncoil

in a flash as sudden as silvered revelation.