Herons on the Ice

Having had their summer, swum, fished and plunged

deeply in their chosen waters, these old birds

have woken up to find the world changed,

their choice stretch of pond frozen. And it hurts,


how it hurts these oh-so-debonair gents

as they gamely pretend to get with the times,

to accept the ice, like old colonial lieutenants

returned to cold, foreign homes,


to hard, unyielding soil. One botches a landing,

wings akimbo in a feathery consternation,

then slips off to repair her damaged standing.

Another, less given to self-laceration,


a wizened old cad adjusting his cravat,

ventures forth to assay the dance floor, a snappy new tune,

still sporting, years after the fact,

the regimental colours that made the ladies swoon.


Uncreaking his joints to an unfamiliar rhythm,

his each step’s a stiff, tentative skid and jerk,

a disaster averted. Now only grief and ruin

can come of the ways that once charmed the world.

Richard Sanger’s poems have appeared in many publications, including the Times Literary Supplement, London Review of Books and Poetry Review, as well as in his collections Shadow Cabinet and Calling Home, both from Signal. His plays include Not Spain, Two Words for Snow and Hannah’s Turn. He has also translated works by Calderon, Lope de Vega and Lorca, written for numerous journals, and taught and been writer-in-residence at various universities. He lives in Toronto.