Through the Heron Door

by Jack H. Marr


The heron is
                     silence by the frozen pool.
The heron is
It is the wide-gaping beak,
the crane bag spilling letters.
The heron is 
                                         all together and at one time
                                         in sequence
great downbeat of wings and neck outstretched.
Too still to see, his shadow a hunter.
The heron is a woman.
The heron is a coat
               feathers wrapping
               skin side warm
     for the dance, the long dance, the circling dance
around and back again: the heron is
north to south along the river's path;
This heron goes.
That heron stays.


The heron is an old, old man standing on one leg
   and a king
              waiting wounded in the wasteland of the fens
for the right question.


The Heron Men
are silent men.
They do not say all that they know
but their cry is harsh
    and lonely.
    The bittern is their cousin, 
       outcast and booming.
When they gather the sky is dark
wheeling wings, a gathering of pterodons
blackening the air.
     They gather rarely.
     Their heronries are few.

The Heron Men
     are secret-keepers
          and sometimes liars.
          (Look into a heron's eye: would you trust it?)

They are made for mist
   for water-margins
and for endless skies
   they stand webfoot in the mud
   watching the fish-shadows
   and though the people say: there is a heron,
   voices hushed,
they do not see the man behind.


The king is passing.
The Heron House is closed
but for the north door
which only the dead come through.
No more the smear of blood on
          faces, smoke, old men in the dark gathering;
          young men learning to walk
   On its island in the lake
   circle-perfect as the moon:
   the Heron House, the lake
ice-matte-white or lapping at the
   walkway — 
   the first path, pilings and planks
   long sunk.
(It does not lead to the north door.)


The north door will open
You will go where the dead go.
There is a dark mystery there
the heron
oh: the heron
and his flight.

it has only just begun.
The shadow of a wing falls over your sleep
The heron
the heron is coming for you
to bring you to the lodge
where the soft-sharp stubs of your feathers
will start to poke, prickly-familiar
through your safe human skin once more.

Jack Hollis Marr is an Englishman living rather bewilderedly in Montreal, where he finds the city amazing and the weather fantastical, and where he has just started writing again after a gap of several years. His favourite fruit is the satsuma, which is almost impossible to obtain in Quebec and is therefore taking on an almost mythical quality for him.

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