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Dusk in Dupont Circle

Martha Young

2019 Honorable Mention, Marica and Jan Vilcek Prize for Poetry


A wingspan so wide it soared beyond the sidewalk
like a small plane. I turned, I had to turn, find where it landed,

a wader, crested, long-billed, short-legged.
It was dark by now, a crowd had come to watch

the heron standing in a patch of weeds and butts,
a sculpted thing, a bronze, its head plumes almost

Corinthian. Slowly it lifted each blade-thin leg
and then with one swift thrust, cracked its bill,

snatched a bulging rat it chugged down whole.
“It’s heavy,” you cried, heaving yourself up, pushing 

out your arms to stop the fluid from filling your lungs.
I could touch you when you died—toes, earlobes,

soft fringe of hair at the nape of your neck. I could hold
your hand as it turned to parchment, then to gold.