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Home » "Elegy" by Nathaniel Bellows
An egret lifting its blue feet in the reeds, among the cut-up
sticks floating in the shallows of the lake. What caught my eye
was its color—beyond white, white moving past itself
into something lit, as if with winter's last light. The water was gray—
I should say the water was black, because, against it,
the bird glowed, plumage like an over-powdered pastry.
There were flowers, too. And green buds on the trees, like flecks
of food scattered on a sleeve. Otherwise, there was little
hue to report. You should have seen that bird—not its coat
but the way it moved reminded me of the bllind, how they
pause before they walk, calibrating their movements
like a clock. Once, when my watch had stopped, I opened its face
and peering at its frozen parts and felt as I did
peering through the reeds at the bird: disbelief combined
with fatigue: the list of misunderstood things extends: the bird,
the watch, the blind...where are you among them? The bird plodded
through some floating trash, at which point I left not to
have to see it struggle with the bright wrappers. I don't know
what happened after that—where the bird stepped, or, if its beak
pierced the black lake, or if, when it flew away, it was absorbed by the sky...
I wondered what you'd say about all this. Maybe you'd suggest
it was the crocuses, actually, hundreds of pale shells, each
with a tiny votive flame that gave the day its brightness.
"Elegy" from Why Speak? by Nathaniel Bellows. Copyright © 2007 by Nathaniel Bellows. Published by W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.