Awkward in Audubon’s Birds of North America,
he stands solemn on his own page,
slanting his figure-eight face
at a quizzical angle,
his gaze inward, probing
over skimmings of shrimp
and shirking crayfish,
weary, watching, as though all motion
is beyond him—the still point
in that whiskered scrimmage.
Melon ball lashed with scarlet,
his body is a half-painted nail,
his bill slate lathed to lemniscate.
Each swamp-step he takes is ginger, fussy:
he takes his time, hunts the fingerling
bustle of antennae and scuttle of crustacea,
variations on rose, apricot, salmon,
then blushing into summer colour
as the tourists snap away.
He poses shyly, his Möbius shape
ungainly as he wades in dun
panning the mudflat, sieving
and shuffling, turning in on himself,
trying to find an exit,
hunting an escape, an angle
in all that inner infinity.
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