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Prayer to a Great Blue Heron

You’ve met me twice recently by the lake,
with your elegant serene pose,
standing so still I almost didn’t see you.

The first time I was with a friend – 
someone who knew you,
whom I had asked to meet me.

I needed a friend – 
someone to interrupt the bleakness
of all this unwanted time alone.

I was afraid.

I was always taught not to show fear – 
a lesson in protecting oneself,
well-intentioned but poor advice.

For when facing down a soul
burdened with the harshness of grief,
there are times when fear is all there is.

Fear of crumbling into a million pieces,
fear of forgetting the touch, smell, taste
of your beloved in the passage of time,

fear of being hollowed out by sadness,
fear of being swallowed up by loneliness,
fear of losing purpose.

So many fears.

The next time I spotted you at the lake
I nearly missed you altogether.
You didn’t move or make a sound.

Yet there you stood as regal as before,
exquisite in your muted tones against the reeds,
blending in to this world of water and sky.

I stopped to breathe,
to wonder at your presence,
to say thank you.

Is this you accompanying me in my fear?
Is this you beckoning me to pay attention?

I pray that it is.

Mark Lloyd Richardson
September 27, 2021
8 months