Bird Companions by Joanne Arnott

by Steven McCabe

As I lie here hour after hour, I seem to enter

the wild pastimes of the cliff, and to become

a companion of the cormorants and crows.

–J.M. Synge, “The Aran Islands”

i. fish

heron stepping long-legged & slow

along the shoreline

sharp-eyed observer of all that flows

below the river surface

a quick darting response, immersing

your head to claim

this fish’s life

for your own

then, head aloft again

you strike a calm, calm & stately, pose

becoming airborne

is always a challenge, with those

broad blue wings & fine walking limbs

& graceful neck

to organize everything

& launch skyward

is difficult, yet daily you accomplish

the task

you do fly with poise & strength

& build a sturdy nest among the trees

ii. delta

river winds across land

gathering clay & soil & seed

building a delta that opens wide

a lush expanse

where red-winged blackbird stays

to sing

all year

the geese & duck arrive

& they leave


& they leave


& then they leave again

season follows season

year after year they make their path

of wide world migrations

& they do stop by me

they do

to rest & feed

but only for a little while

iii. fish

struck by heron’s bill

& caught

lifted dripping from my home

into the sky i go

will i be swallowed?

will i slide all the way along

the inside of that neck

come to rest

deep within

become one

with the heron?

or will i topple to the side

fall from a high place


iv. delta

a wide orchestral interplay

of water & wild flower

mud & tough, tall grass

the songs of the birds & the frogs

liven our hearts

Joanne Arnott is a Metis poet living on Canada’s west coast.