‘The Promised Herons’ by Karen Skolfield​

— Andrew Sargus Klein

I love herons. I don’t entirely know why they resonate with me on such a deep level, but they do. And so when I saw a poem titled ‘The Promised Herons’ in the Winter issue of Sixth Finch, I smiled at my computer.

But there are no herons in this poem. Well, there are herons, but their corporality is delimited entirely by absence. The poem begins:

No herons at the heronry,

The promised herons
missing inexplicably, those herons.

Old nests of no herons,
No heron croaks, too quiet
the wattling of no herons.

At no point do the majestic birds appear, and yet with each detail, the presence of herons grows, paradoxically, until all I can think about is each and every time I’ve seen a heron, I’m not even looking at my computer screen by the end.

And yet the difficult, ominous end still catches me by surprise, even though there are hints of hopelessness that come before. This is likely my personal love of the bird that resists this hopelessness. There’s a canoe that can’t make it through the brushy waterway, but even still, the presence of herons isn’t completely dispelled. It lingers far beyond the screen.

Sixth Finch