My neighbor's boy has lifted his father's shotgun and stolen
down to the backwaters of the Elizabeth
and in the moon he's blasted a snow egret
from the shallows it stalked for small fish.
Midnight. My wife wakes me. He's in the backyard
with a shovel so I go down half drunk with pills
that let me sleep to see what I can see and if it's safe.
The boy doesn't hear me come across the dewy grass.
He says through tears he has to bury it,
he says his father will kill him
and he digs until the hole is deep enough and gathers
the egret carefully into his arms
as if not to harm the blood-splattered wings
gleaming in the flashlight beam.
His man's muscled shoulders
shake with the weight of what he can't set right no matter what,
but one last time he tries to stay a child, sobbing
please don't tell. . . .
He says he only meant to flush it from the shadows,
but only meant to watch it fly
but the shot spread too far
ripping into the white wings spanned awkwardly for a moment
until it glided into brackish death.
I want to grab his shoulders,
Shake the lies loose from his lips but he hurts enough,
he burns with shame for what he's done,
with fear for his hard father's
fists I've seen crash down on him for so much less.
I don't know what do to but hold him.
If I let go he'll fly to pieces before me. What a time we share, that can make a good boy steal away,
wiping out from the blue face of the pond
what he hadn't even known he loved, blasting
such beauty into nothing.
Copyright 1988 by Bruce Weigl
Reproduced with kind permission