Thinking of the Anhinga

Bad habits persist:

The nail biting, the bickering.


Beside the sand trap

like a bull fighter’s cape

without the crimson lining,

the anhinga spreads his wings to dry,

black feathers

dramatic, but not beautiful:

a mourning crepe.


It looks uncomfortable

the way he had to hold his wings

up and back

like a child being told

to stand up straight.


Grace in the awkward gesture—


Walking along the grass

talking at cross purposes


Submerged bird, aka

Snakebird, Water turkey, American darter,

only his long thin beak

just above the surface, his plumage

not oiled, not waterproof:

waterlogged, he stays under a long time.


Bed left unmade,

running late, running out of money.


Like a picnic cloth held above the grass,

the wings lift,

like something about to happen

or that is always happening

or never quite does


Overeating, falling asleep

too early in the evenings.


These birds can be found

near standing water, by a canal,

beside a slash pine,

along the Naples city beach.


Severest drought in 20 years,

the fish-eater needs

water to dive into, needs to feed

at Lettuce Lake

in Corkscrew Swamp,

with dangerously low

water levels: to find his spot on the bank,

beside the royal ferns, near the Moon Vine,

the cantankerous green pond apples.


Doing too much too fast.

Not doing enough.


In a corner of my mind,

like the monk in a saffron robe I saw

at the self-serve gas pump last week,

the anhinga sits and dries his wings.

Join the conversation