Art & Poetry Series: 4 Great Blues, Great Blue; Caw-Caw-Caw, Luster; Osprey with Mackerel, Ode to an Osprey; Northern Saw-Whet Owl, Saw-Whet Owl; Dark Angels, Shags and Solitude

By Leslie Moore 


4 Great Blues

Great Blue

Ardea herodias 

The heron lifts off
its granite pedestal
with primordial
a pterodactyl
come back
to life.

but aloft,
it skims the bay
with giant
head tucked,
neck coiled,
legs trailing.

I too want
to rise from
this rocky shore,
and flap into
the great blue




Corvus brachyrhynchos

When she comes in
for a landing,
tail fanned,
a bright band of white
bisects black feathers.

When she takes off,
the flight feathers
in her wings
flash ivory.

It’s not the glance
of sunlight off
ebony plumes. 

Not the iridescence
of pitch-dark feathering
collecting and reflecting
the colors of the sky–
indigo, lavender, pearl. 

She’s not a white-collared crow
blown hither from South Africa
in a cross-Atlantic gale.

No, this piebald crow
is an exotic. She flocks
with common crows
in City Park, zebra striped
in the melanin-rich murder,
an undreamed bird
in a familiar landscape.


Osprey with Mackerel

Ode to an Osprey

Ossifragus, bone-breaker

Oh to be so far sighted
as to see what I want
from aloft–
a glint in bright waters.

Oh to be so bold
as to fold my wings
into free fall—
no hesitation, no doubts.

To be chillingly exact,
raising my wings,
lifting my legs,
in the last breath.

Deft enough
to rake the surface
with sharp, hooked claws,
barbed pads on the soles of my feet.

To sweep
what I’m after
right out of the water
and then rise

on wild downbeats,
shimmy my load
into alignment—
head first, no drag.

Oh to wing
back to my eyrie,
catch clinched
in steel talons.


Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Saw-Whet Owl

Aegolius acadicus

So small he makes two meals
of a field mouse, yet his
like an 18-wheeler backing up
carries for half a mile.
Once I heard one call
from a cabin on the coast
and it sounded like the hiss
of a radiator releasing steam
only the cabin had no radiator
no electricity
no running water
only candles and kerosene lamps
rain barrels under downspouts
an outhouse
and a tiny saw-whet owl saying
from a white pine
in response to her mate.


Dark Angels*

Shags and Solitude

Cormorant, corvus marinus, “sea raven” 

17 shags balance on the high wire that spans
     the Passagassawakeag at the Narrows
where the Upper Bridge used to be.

They shuffle flat webbed feet, better suited
     to swimming than perching, teeter,
face downriver, beaks tilted into the breeze. 

Some preen feathers with hooked bills.
     Others hang inky wings out to dry. They croak
companionably. Shit milky streams of guano.

A mile upriver, on a quiet inlet, a lone shag
     straddles a dead limb over the water.
Maybe the others were mean to him, Tom says. 

We chuckle, but I want to stand with this bird.
     Escape the crowd, its glib camaraderie.
Let my thoughts slow to the flow of the river. 


*Dark Angels has previously appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of The Cafe Review.