Marie Harris

Western Grebe

Aechmophorous occidentalis
Sun-setting spear-bearer

On any one of his long-strided walks
near the Mandan settlement that first fall,
Meriwether Lewis encountered all manner of shorebirds
and ducks plying the sloughs.
Naturalist, explorer, he shot one of each.
Taxidermist, he sent specimens back East.
Diarist, he described each one shot to the last pinfeather.


I write in my journal
(a letter to you from the West)


…the wind that flattens the tall grass prairie
and keeps blackbirds and meadowlarks low,
deafens foraging waterfowl
to my slow advance.


I am seeing for the first time
          for the first time! imagine!


long-legged, blue-legged avocets
giddily spinning phalaropes
the thin-necked grebe with its sharp bill and red eye


So would you, reader,
be my correspondent,
my accomplice?


My Jefferson.

Marie Harris
“Western Grebe” first appeared in Hanging Loose Magazine, #87.