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Refuge
by Alison Deming

Glossy ibis, says the guide, setting her tripod
on pavement, training the lens for the birdwatchers
to fix the downward curved bird and spindly legs
of the wader. I can't help but itch
to get closer than this tailored birdwalk. Once

I rode to low marshland with a friend. The horses
mucking up to their knees, parting the brushy alders
where there wasn't any trail. We gave them their heads,
trusting their instincts to get to dry land.
On the far side we rested, the woods

glowing with rust and lemon. We sat. Reins dropped,
the horses leaned to fidget the leaves.
Wind thickened in the evergreens. Then the quiet cracked--
wings that loud slapped the air--brittle legs
arrowed through weeds to land not five feet away.

The great blue heron, eye fixed toward shore,
where we held our breath. Even when
we began to speak, edging slightly closer,
she stayed. And something in her lack of fear,
the fix of one black iris on us--horses,

woman and man alike--kept us in our place.



Alison Hawthorne Deming is the author of The Monarchs: A Poem Sequence (Louisiana State University Press), Science and Other Poems, Temporary Homelands: Essays on Nature, Spirit and Place, and is the editor of Poetry of the American West. She is director of the University of Arizona Poetry Center. This poem is selected from Science and Other Poems (Louisiana State University Press), which received the 1993 Walt Whitman Award of The Academy of American Poets. Alison is a regular participant in The Orion Society's Forgotten Language Tour.

If you'd like to order her books (and others), please visit The Orion Society Bookstore.

This poem was originally published in the Spring 1994 issue of Orion. To order a copy of this issue, please visit The Orion Society Marketplace, call (413) 528-4422, write The Orion Society, 195 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230, or e-mail us at orion@orionsociety.org.



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