The Day the Egrets Came Calling

by Christopher T. George
The Writer's Block
First Place, July 2009
Judged by George Szirtes

As ever I sought a glimpse of the blue herons nesting
in the woods east of the Anacostia River as my train
drove into D.C., but today there were three white

egrets heads bent among the roosting herons. Or perhaps
they were snowy herons. Do snowies associate with blues?
White-robed Holy Men! Prophets! The Dead! The Wise,

perhaps the spirit of my late Father. Don’t laugh. Wipe
that smile off your face. Wipe that face off your face.
I may be wrong, but I’d be wrong to express no regrets.

Father, forgive me for my neglect of my aging Mother,
your widow. You died far too young, in your sixties,
and I am sixty-one now. O, cruel world, embrace us

with your savagery! Sweet Embraceable You — Life!
How I loathe you for the pain you deal me but I need you.
I saw a blood red-leaf on an ornamental pear tree

at New Carrollton Station in dark green foliage,
the same tree clothed in white blossom weeks ago.
One spot of blood. Oh, Savior! Be the saving of me.

"The Day the Egrets Came Calling" takes even more risks than "Bereavement" does. And they are very big risks. The list of apostrophised figures in line 6. The use of "O, cruel world" and "Sweet Embraceable You". And that last line that could have sprung out of Herbert or Hopkins. I was fascinated by a poem so balanced on a knife edge. If it held the balance it was terrific. If it did not, it fell into bathos. I didn't think it was bathetic at the end. There is something terrific and edgy about it. --George Szirtes