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Young, George, 1938- / Bird of paradise: poetry
(2011)

Audubon,   p. 18


Page 18

Audubon
is searching today
along the Natchez Trace, carrying
a crayon and paper, his gun, a small bottle of spirits-
the high cedars above
blue as smoke, the riverskin below brimming
with light-when
there's a flash
of white by the marsh: a Snowy Egret,
its plumicorn
erect, still, waiting for the sense of its presence
to travel to the man before it flies.
At the tavern last night
he boasted of being the Lost Dauphin.
Within a year he will sit in the glittering outer parlors
of London, the American
Woodsman, waiting with his pictures.
Only now a simple yearning
goes out of him
and stretches toward this one shy bird in the marsh,
a longing
to hold its memory, its total
beauty, the array of its white feathers in his head.
But it is not from memory he will paint it.
Later, he wires its body.
And then, as always, under the point of his brush
it becomes a languid, odd thing,
its neck stiff, a dead
thing, not a live thing, never the vision he held
for a moment-which was
a radiance
and which died with the bird.
18


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