The good news is,
it’s the blue heron the child remembers,
its long thin legs silhouetted against the first light,
one of them bent starkly
like a broken stick,
its head tucked under a wing,
then gazing up at the small, alien creature barking in the morn.
The child remembers the glorious orange-pink glow
taking over the sky,
the unbelievably loud, joyous clamor of birds
greeting the new day, nearly drowning out her own sharp caw.
It sounded like a jungle, the child said,
a rainforest jungle.
The child doesn’t remember the cyanoid tinge of her lips,
the quick retraction just below
her delicate rib cage,
pulling in so oddly before the sound bellowed out.
She doesn’t remember the way that half-seal,
half-dog sound cut
into her mother’s heart,
or the acute prick of mother’s regret at forgetting that vile
but precious orange syrup at home.
The child doesn’t remember being wrapped
in the cheap hotel quilt, the quick transfer from steaming clouds
in the bath to the cool night air in her father’s arms,
anything to break
She doesn’t remember her parents’ anger
at the lingering scent of cigarette in the non-smoking room,
the useless window that was sealed shut
the questionable carpeting, the poor decision
to allow swimming so close to bedtime in the over-chlorinated
the five more minutes, please, that led to ten,
that led to this early wake-up call,
barking at the blue heron.
The child remembers only the blue heron-
silent, grand and magical, queen of the dawn-
and the wild chorus of her winged court.
For this they are thankful.