After Learning of a Friend’s Suicide, We Drive to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park


In trees along the Bath Road rookery,
a siege of herons broods. Their long necks kink.
Their nests clump bare branches like flood debris.
Settling with a click in icy muck,
gray-bearded and imposing, a male impales
the air with his spiked face, snapping stems
of reeds, but wades so slowly he hardly ripples
the surface of the pond. The water steams.

We’ve never seen one so close up before—
head cocked to scan the tributary bank
with one eye toward the sky, one toward the river.
Into his own reflection, he dips his bill
and snags a frog or fish he chokes down whole,
granting us permission not to speak.


Originally appeared here :  Zocalo Public Square

Nominated by : Lauren Camp

Comment: Right from the title of this poem, we expect to be walloped. And in fact, we are—but we’re taken into that angst through the back spaces. We go into nature and its brooding, steaming toughness. Words come at us with their hard edges: “kink,” “clump,” “muck,” “spiked,” “snapping.” And then, at the end, the true walloping when Brodeur writes, “he chokes down whole…” After all, isn’t that what you do with news of a suicide—choke it down and swallow?



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