Cleaning Up

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The cattails curve in the wind and sigh like the blues a nature god, out-raced, once played on the reeds to temper his lust.

We hear it in West Texas too, as we tread the edge of a reed-thick playa lake in the midst of a city park, its chainlink

definitions of dog run, tennis court, municipal pool. This pond, even as it functions as an urban sump, remains a haven

for migrants—sedge wren, bittern; and my daughter and I, who return to this spot, year after year, as she grows

and I age. Today, a breezy spring equinox, we’re here with other volunteers to gather trash. She mentions, too, she hopes to see an egret.

Like egrets we stalk, stab at the mud for multicolor morsels of plastic, potsherds of a civilization toxic with refuse.

A harvest of soda cans, styrofoam— the indigestible jetsam of fast-food lunches— and here and there, tokens of more personal life.

Unmatched sandals, a stroller wheel, two bras, a sun-blanched photo of a ghost; a bottle of prosecco, still new, emptied of what praise,

or love, or arguments it held; a fishing rod snapped in two. Things rejected, lost, used once and tossed—we gather

no after no after no. No god or goddess. No egrets. Another hour to go, and bored, I try imagining hope

—as if hope were some plastic bag I could snag with the tongs, and hang it on one of these fence poles, like a flag.

I know that egrets will come, at least once more—stately, golden-sandalled, robed

with white breeding plumes they once were hunted for—to probe among the reeds for quivering life.

I pluck another coffee cup, its bitter white.