Western Grebe

                                    Aechmophorous occidentalis

                                    Sun-setting spear-bearer



On any one of his long-strided walks

near the Mandan settlement that first fall,

Meriwether Lewis encountered all manner of shorebirds

and ducks plying the sloughs.

Naturalist, explorer, he shot one of each.

Taxidermist, he sent specimens back East.

Diarist, he described each one shot to the last pinfeather.


I write in my journal

(a letter to you from the West)


...the wind that flattens the tall grass prairie

and keeps blackbirds and meadowlarks low,

deafens foraging waterfowl

to my slow advance.


I am seeing for the first time


            for the first time! imagine!


long-legged, blue-legged avocets

giddily spinning phalaropes

the thin-necked grebe with its sharp bill and red eye


So would you, reader,

be my correspondent,

my accomplice?


My Jefferson.



--Marie Harris