“Park Attendant” by Lloyd Shaw


We watch from the hill the parry,

thrust, and puncture of his art,

as heron-skilled he stabs

at schools of paper darting

fish-like through the Sunday crowds.

Inept at sums, he measures pride

in piercing the matchbook's crease,

the cognizance of shifting gusts

malevolently willing a leaf

to dodge his practiced jab.

He knows his flapping coat can whip

a wind to mar the sureness

of his aim for the wrapper's heart.


But terror's in the vision

of this man as bird.  How

more awkward, pained, he stumbles

by the noon tables, gulping

proffered charities, frightening

children, stuffing into pockets

the day's bounty.  Like a

caged heron, graceless, cowering,

picking, turning, his bacon rind,

dead fish, and bread, disturbing

our memory with the essential skill

that stalked unrippling the matted marsh,

holding for an instant between each step

one foot suspended in a still pose.