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The History of “Egret”

             When my English teacher, Hayes McNeill, asked everyone to write haiku, I read the examples, then remembered a favorite memory from childhood, an image of a large wading bird who visited our irrigation pond:

A crane is so large

and white, poking into its 

reflection for fish.

My mother told me it was a crane, but it is much more likely that it was a great egret. Neither sandhill cranes nor whooping cranes visit North Carolina, and they are not completely white, as is the mature egret.

            For some reason, I associated the visitation with the Fourth of July. Maybe the egret came to visit for two years in a row on Independence Day. It certainly looked independent, always traveling alone. Perhaps our one-acre pond was on its list of “Suitable Bodies of Water for the Traveling Wader,” and the bird had a schedule to keep.

            The poem grew over the years, over the decades really. At one point I entitled it “Poem,” since the last section is about waiting for inspiration, waiting for the poem—the act of creation in general. But that title does not seem to get at the essence of the whole poem, so I went back to “Egret.”

            I hope everyone has a moment to reflect on Independence Day, to stand alone and wait for an insight. Yes, we sometimes need to come together for a “Boom!” and a “Bam!” and a charred piece of meat. But without the quiet times, we cannot understand the rest of it.

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