The Salt-Marsh Hour
The devil comes to my room
In the person of a wading bird.
He stands in the dark
All shins and sharp edges
Like a thing impaled in the level ground.
He skates his feet through the carpet,
Trailing his ankles behind him,
Leaving ridges of yellow
That do not ripple or fade.
He takes a listless pleasure in it,
As if dragging a stick over fenceposts.
He breaks the square of light
That falls from the window, and I see
He has done the knees in snakeskin,
Which is just like him.
Through the clicking of his beak
He speaks to me plainly.
Once I lay in fear of him. Now I answer,
Sitting upright in a crumple of sheets,
Naked and bleary, familiar as a wife.
I have started again the conversation
We have rehearsed and rehearsed:
I should have been a cloud of silt,
I say, a drift
Swirled up in brackish water,
Old shells kicked up to glitter
I should have been a smokeless, ashless fire.
And the devil says, I am a heron,
An egret, a bittern, a crane.
I stand in the shallows and strike
And swallow whatever I spear.
Your moon and your brackish water
Wash over my back,
And I coil my neck.
I retire to tree and reedbeds.
The devil comes to my side
With his wings half-furled,
And I bury my hand in his shoulders.
I feel the shiver of damp
That rolls over oiled feathers.
A cold bracelet rises up to my wrist
As my fingers brush
The hard spines by the skin,
Stroking the body, pressing into
The warm and rounded weight.