Cranes

Cranes

 

In the marsh and the muck and the bug-ridden

brown of the swamp, in the day’s first gray

and mosquitoes’ hum, a crane suspends himself,

 

bold and bleached white as any bone

left under desert sun.

 

On a spindle twig, a spider-web thread

of a leg, watching the impossible murk

at his feet. It stares its arrow head down,

still as any anvil, sharp as any ice pick.

 

He is white beyond the white of any bone

bleached under any desert’s sun.

Impossibly white amid the black

slime of a roadside swamp.

 

From my plastic seat on a rattling bus, I remember my wife’s

sister will marry next weekend, and her brother brings to the table

a girl grating on the family. In front of his ex and in front of their child,

in front of gossips and grandmothers, before the wide eyes and mouths

of all, he wants to bring her to his sister’s wedding.

 

I should speak with him.

 

It’s muck I’d rather stay out of.

 

My parents are crying again, something

my brother said to them. Grandchildren.

In-laws. Grudges. Hurt buried deep.

Years of it.

 

I should speak to him too.

 

Students are failing, one may be cutting

her wrists, and their homes may be crumbling

the same moment they should be analyzing

parts of a cell and revising compositions.

 

But this morning, as the sun rises and I ride a clanky

bus to work, I watch the white crane suspend

himself alone and bleached

whiter than any bone

left years under desert

 

suns revolving hot and white.

the same sun burning now through

stifling haze, above the mud of a hundred

bullfrogs gurgling back to muddy furrows,

nightly songs croaked of soiled life spent,

the existence of wallowing in black

slime the bleached crane also feeds in.

 

My wife’s sister will marry next weekend,

and her brother brings a girl and turmoil.

I should speak with him,

But I’m watching the white crane swing

his beautiful white limbs in the humid haze

of another day’s sticky dawn. My mother cries

and my father seethes over words said

and unsaid with my brother. Those students

should be in their cars even now, headed to

the school they hate or could maybe save them.

I should speak with them. And with them. And with them.

 

Then the crane crinkles and pops

out from the slime; It skims

a white smooth cloud over the brackish

surface until it disappears in the vines

and my bus clatters across

cobblestones to my classes.

 

The crane somehow stays white

despite a life standing in slime.

I need to call him

maybe this afternoon.

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