“Heron,” “Liberty” and “Odyssey”

Poetry by Patrick T. Reardon

“Heron,” “Liberty” and “Odyssey”

Heron

Great blue heron, white in high green,

folds on self, forward falls toward water,

clear space, wingspan wind-catch, rise in flight.

I am semi-trailer truck in someone else’s tender canoe

— steep banks through suburbs, six crows

from one bank to the other frenzy a hawk,

mud raccoon handprints,

duckweed green scum.

I will never return to this river.

Forty days and nights on

rising waters, they alone

kept the breath of life in

their nostrils across the face

of the seas. The raven, gone,

and then the low pigeon,

back, with green hope.

These words written

on back of page proving evolution,

going back to start, original sin

— as if the heron were showing off,

as if God seeded evil,

as if Jesus was a mutation,

as if pain meant,

as if anyone could make me understand anything.

Here, twenty years after heron's fall,

bird, instruct me, odd, tall, thin, long creature.

Explain cell division, tock-tick and falling to fly,

neither evil nor good.

Liberty

On Bedloe's Island, ducking

the tour, I stowed away

and, at night, when all

bodies had emptied out

of the body, found the

command deck where,

with a touch of a button,

I opened Lady Liberty’s

heavy copper eyes and I

could see where I was

going when, moments

later, I pushed ignition

for lift-off from the launch

pad, and we — statue

body and I, Lady and

I — were on our way to

space orbit where I

looked down on grim

Covid globe, social

distanced as I’d been

for months in that two-flat

on Paulina Street, this

copper-steel-iron angel

just another tin can, like

my ‘06 Scion, no magic

dust to sprinkle over the

good earth to disappear

the contagion and hug each

Jane and Joe with chaste

safety, no glad tidings to

bring of a savior born, no

kings with gifts for a

Gethsemane planet

yearning to breathe free.

Odyssey

Face of God, name

of God, child death

in every home,

Egyptian, Israelite, Canaanite

— let people go —

sea split, walled water,

tabernacle and gold god,

frogs, lice, hail,

locusts, boils,

blood, blood, blood,

ten commands,

doorposts, manna,

rock water,

hard heart,

seabed, stiff neck,

wilderness, mountaintop,

light rays, cloud,

fire, treaty

— hold still

and see salvation —

flight, arrival, exile,

name of God, face

of God,

— wander alpha to omega,

from end to start,

from freedom to slavery

and back —

breathe, breathe,

breathe,

milk-honey land,

pox, pox, pox,

slaves, victims,

bodies,

new world, new nation,

manifest, faith,

creation,

garden,

empty, open.

And, then,

again.

About the Author

Patrick T. Reardon

Facebook Twitter Website Instagram LinkedIn

Patrick T. Reardon, a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, is the author of nine books, including the history The Loop: The “L” Tracks That Shaped and Saved Chicago; the poetry collection Requiem for David; and Faith Stripped to Its Essence, a literary-religious analysis of Shusaku Endo's novel Silence. His poetry has appeared widely. Reardon, who worked as a Chicago Tribune reporter for 32 years, has published essays and book reviews widely in such publications as the Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain’s Chicago Business, National Catholic Reporter and U.S. Catholic. His book Puddin: The Autobiography of a Baby, a Memoir in Prose Poems will be published in 2021 by Third World Press.