Koan of the Blue Heron

     …the brain’s neural circuitry for aggression seems dangerously
     cheek by jowl with the neural circuitry for sex.
          —Carl Sagan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors

Aroma is language
the wild body knows,

the come hither, or
I will kill you

of scent glands. Not
just at the pick-up bar,
back alley, war zone—

gazelles have them in front
of their eyes, camels on
feet and neck, sheep their bellies,

pigs on the wrist, chamois behind horns,
musk deer in front of the genitals,
goats on the tail. It’s difficult

to know what you want, to be sure
of desire, its entanglements.

So, rabbits meticulously coat
each pellet of feces with anal scent,
make piles at crossroads in the warren

like altars of Hecate on the highways
of ancient Greece: to warn the unwary,
seduce the aloof.

Rats urinate on their partners’ bodies,
its own Freudian puzzle.

Each of us: neural architecture hardwired
for predation & fusion both,
along parallel circuitry.

But the beautiful blue heron seems
most human in its confusion
of desire and antipathy—

the female, hearing the mating call
chooses her heart’s desire, settles

on a nearby branch where he begins
to court her, till she shows interest.
Whereupon he becomes unpleasant,

attacks her, then frantically screams
to call her back when she flies off.
Over and again. A candidate for therapy,

some scientists muse. The fate of the species
quivering in every gland, wave of wing,

baring of belly, flash of tooth. The way

I sometimes want to kill and love you at the same time.
This wonder of the wild.

That look in your eye.





Dane Cervine’s recent books include Earth Is a Fickle Dancer (Main Street Rag), and The Gateless Gate – Polishing the Moon Sword (Saddle Road Press), a cross-genre work of Zen koan and prose poems. Previous collections include Kung Fu of the Dark Father, How Therapists Dance, The Jeweled Net of Indra, and What a Father Dreams. Cervine’s poems have won awards from Adrienne Rich, Tony Hoagland, Atlanta Review, and Caesura, and been nominated for a Pushcart. His work appears in The Sun, Hudson Review, TriQuarterly, Poetry Flash, Rattle, and Sycamore Review, among others. Visit his website at: https://danecervine.typepad.com/

Latest Issue

Issue 85

More In This Issue