Devil’s Lake

Spring 2010 Issue

Martha Serpas: Water Bird

there in the river is what I am not

it does not look at me

stillness repeating its choice

scores of marauding carp

spring out of the tides

I think I could watch

the water bird’s white-breasted

profile forever

I think I could unravel

its yellow roots and plume

like so much macramé

there on the river

the mudflats and cord grass

turn textured and thick

splattered gesso and oils

I can’t look

and then the river is also

what it is not

and I am what I was

whatever that is

between us

the water bird

when it finally quits

the water

its wings widen like a compass

for drawing circles

the circle around us

breaks and only small arcs

remain, the sun the ripples

the water bird’s flattening eye.

MARTHA SERPAS’s most recent collection is The Dirty Side of the Storm (W.W. Norton). Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, and Southwest Review. Other work is included in Bearing the Mystery: Twenty Years of Image and in the Library of America’s American Religious Poems. A part-time hospital trauma chaplain, she teaches creative writing at the University of Houston. More from this issue >