The Blue Heron People

Melissa Kwasny

I send artemesia to my sister, its silver coolant
for her fever
and a winding sheet of lilac and blue flax,
whose colors wash out in the rains,
for her pain. Denim and chambray of the heron.How do we position ourselves against
the ancestors in the blood? Change one thing
and the rest will follow.
Our voices, the American Indian writer said,
are ugly to the birds and snakes.
We should instead think our thoughts to them.On weekends, trucks head into the mountains,
loaded with trailers and ATVs,
with their heaviness, with their violent expense.
Animals dilate, the grasses suffer.But what is our true nature, our essential form?
At half their future height, the heron chicks
stand in their high nests, staring out
at us, at danger, from atop their twiggy necks,
not realizing how obvious they are.We were not a pretty family. We were raw.
I send my sister the blue wheat grass, flowering
into its elegant art deco scrolls,
the shade fir trees hold, close, below their limbs.
I send her distance, the serious flight of herons:They who have inherited the water traits. Who wade
through mint. They, who are better left alone.

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Melissa Kwasny’s previous collections include Pictograph, Reading Novalis in Montana, and The Nine Senses. She is also the author of Earth Recitals: Essays on Image and Vision. She has won both the Cecil Hemley Memorial Award and the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America.

“Kwasny has a rare lyric intelligence that can illuminate the most complexly layered quest for understanding without attempting to simplify its parts. These poems never shrink from the most intricate and difficult questions that we, as humans, face.”
—Rusty Morrison

“Kwasny gives us here the book our age most desperately needs—not only a book that searches through the self for all the ancestors, all the dead, which makes of violence not despair but threshold to radical repair—a book that asks what is the soul.”
—Dan Beachy-Quick

“I can’t shake the feeling that this work is haunted by the spirits of the living earth. Revelatory and resplendent, Where Outside the Body Is the Soul Today is an altar to a higher vision, an elegant meditation fastened to both the inconceivable and the conceivable, the immortal and the material world.”
—Debra Magpie Earling

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