To Know Something Certain

Across the lagoon, it’s a snowy egret I see
standing with one leg bent like a broken
hanger, foot like a child’s yellow boot.

I know this for a fact because I’ve just now read that
the snowy egret has a black bill and yellow feet
and the larger great egret is reversed.

And to remember this particular bird distinction
requires a memory trick in which yellow equals
rubber boots stepping through the snow.

Because when I walk away from this spot I know
I’ll need something solid in case I slip
in the muddy slope of mayhem,

the uncertainty of a world that’s swimming
in a pandemic, where life as we knew it
is doubting its facts.

The tangled web of woods is out there in
that confusion—not here among these
cottonwood snags, arroyo willows

and sycamore trees by a coastal lagoon
in California, where I stand and stare
and name a snowy egret.

So today there is the anchor of this small new fact
to steady me for a moment on my own two feet,
the bird poised with comic elegance on one.

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