The Heron’s Perfect Beak

Great Blue Heron, Loch Lomond, California
The Heron’s Perfect Beak

My uncle died nine months to the day
after his wife—but sixty years

of marriage will do that
to you. He was tending a bumper

tomato crop—sprouting from old washer
drums, repurposed raised

worm beds, and a dark, fertile plot
formerly used as a mule

lot—when he bent over from the seat
of his beat-up golf cart

and cracked a vertebra so clean
he never really walked

again. The day before he died,
with pneumonia set-in

bad because of all he laid down,
his youngest sister

called the hospital. They talked
about going home, and

he said happily he’d just gone—
took a last long wander

to the lilied fish pond, watched a heron
aim his perfect beak

at minnows, and made himself
a fresh tomato sandwich

with enough mayonnaise to kill
a man. Knowing what

I know now, it must’ve been good for him
to get to do, and have, that.


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