Phoenix On Our Street
Yellow Crowned Night Herons
*Phoenix Drum, Engaku-ji Temple Bell Tower, Kita-Kamakura
nest in neighborhoods
in Austin according to Catfish Kelley,
swimmer, friend, avid birdwatcher.
I called him because,
after consulting my father's 1937
edition of Audobon's Birds of America,
I found the name of two magnificant birds
who are building a nest here.
It said they nested in swamps,
marshes and coastal regions.
Our street being none of the above,
I wondered if they were going to be alright,
or knew something about climate
change we didn't.
He said we were lucky to have them,
confirming our collective awe as we looked up,
neighbor after neighbor coming out
to see why so many people were
standing in the street, pointing up.
Now we watch them come and go,
bring sticks to their nest, sleep, flirt.
I wonder how they will manage storms
until the canopy of their new home
bursts to a full verdant green,
that miracle of trees which occurs
Yesterday they were sleeping,
perched, heads tucked under wings.
The day before, in the late afternoon,
their plumes were up, which
signifies full blown mating season.
night herons with the Phoenix,
a mythical bird that never dies,
whose stories rise from cultures
across the earth.
The crown feathers on both male and female
make them look alike, became the crown
of Osiris, caused ancients to observe
they "birthed" themselves.
In Egypt they were said to appear
every 500 years, to gather the bones
of the parent bird, carry it away to
burial in an egg of myrrh
in the house of the Sun,
where it burned up and was reborn.
In another story they were thought
to be the first living creature to stand
on the mound that was the first earth —
and their cry was the first sound.
In the Greek story they burn up
and then rise from a nest of ashes.
The Japanese phoenix, the hou - ou,
nests in a paulownia tree and appears
when a virtuous ruler is born, depicting
the birth of an era of peace and prosperity.
The Arabian phoenix was said to
nest near a cool well. It carried its egg
of myrrh to the sun god. The burning
and re-birth were emblamatic of the
rising and setting of the sun.
I am going to focus on the Hou-ou
story — a fine thought indeed.
A solar age —
prosperity and peace.
© Susan Bright, 2007.
Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.
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