The Choice by Hilary Sallick

The Choice

As I crossed the stream
I looked down over
the railing as I always
do.. . . . and saw through branches
the familiar heron in
its resting pose
with a reflection bright
on the slow-running water
and I made my way down
to the small meadow
and toward the bank.. . . .I saw the wind
ruffling the feathers
of its breast.. . . .saw that black
cap of its head its
conscious eye
Then closer still I went
pressing through branches
to the bank itself
A pair of mallards was gliding
past me along the silvery water
toward the heron
Then I turned back to the path
A woman there.. . . .called out
as I neared.. . . .You were too close
It’s his sanctuary
I recognized her.. . . .the heron-woman
whose camera with telephoto
lens draws intimate knowledge
from the bird
Once she’d told me of a pair’s
progress.. . . .details of courtship
nest-building mating
and I followed her around
a fenced-off pond
But this day we faced each other
stiffly.. . . .across the tawny
stubbled ground in our matching
green coats.. . . .We moved no closer
Now a tumult of feeling wants
to be voiced in the poem
for the poem like the heron
has its needs
pure and essential ones
I try to see without
intruding.. . . .I try
but I am not made to be
a secret as the heron is
I want things
and I go too close
Always I will make that same

by Hilary Sallick

Editor’s Note: The careful imagery of this poem highlights the deliberate movements of the speaker with studied detail, illuminating the reasons for often difficult decisions.