Catherine Pierce

On the Hottest Day of the Summer I Watch a Heron Fly Overhead

The heat is a slow, inevitable weight,
thick like lava slurping over dark ash.
In the yard my kids are arguing
and I’m vaguely angry,
a low-level friction somewhere
at the nexus of my boys’ shouting
and the earth’s rapid burning
and the sweat pooling
at the small of my back.

When the heron cuts across
the blue sky, I stop. Watch it
until it passes beyond the tall trees.
My first thought, once it’s gone,
is of this poem. Flight something,
smallness something, perspective,
cooling, in spite of.

                     But to melt the heron
into metaphor is a violence.
It’s not a salve or symbol.
Not harbinger or amulet.
It will not save us.

What I know:
I saw it. It’s still here.
So, for now, are we.



Poem Begun While Watching My Son’s Gymnastics Class

Coltish is how we describe the children
when they ricochet, all knees and chaos,
through our homes, mud everywhere,
walls scraped, and we smile ruefully, or
shoo them outside, or snap What are you
and hope the neighbors don’t hear,
but until right now I have never considered
the animal itself, wild-limbed and pent
in tasteful two-story, never considered how
a coffee table or ceiling fan or towering
bookcase has no place in the windswept prairie,
never considered how strange the kitchen’s
cool tile must feel under hooves
built for grasslands golden and lawless.



Catherine Pierce is the Poet Laureate of Mississippi and the author of four books of poems, most recently Danger Days (Saturnalia 2020). Her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, the New York Times, American Poetry Review, The Nation, the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day series, and elsewhere. An NEA Fellow and two-time Pushcart Prize winner, she co-directs the creative writing program at Mississippi State University.