This spring the allée is bare and silent, as those
who planted the ash and linden must have known
it would be one day, though they could not foresee
the foreign beetle whose larvae would feed on the inner bark
and starve their hosts. The designers set straight lines
of stately trees so we would remember
to make our goings and comings stately as the trees.
Now that the ash are dying, and the black-crowned night herons
have found new rookeries, the allée crumbles in its quarantine,
still roped off with faded signs to warn us of the vanished herons.
What else have we failed to protect? Mist swirls on the pond,
and only the ordinary ducks
fish at its edges. The same woman, neither old nor young,
sleeps in her canvas chair by the water, with her bags and knapsacks.
It seems the herons never left South Pond
though last year’s rookery is bare. This morning
five speckled young stand unmoving in the shallows,
another in the leafy shade beyond, a new
and more secret birthplace. They know to wait,
their knowing older than our own. Across the highway
loudspeakers at the beach announce 10 songs at 10,
the year is 1972, as if we’d lived then in a golden age.
Last night it stormed. This morning the waves catch at my feet.
Along the landscaped paths are monuments, one to Garibaldi,
the next to Goethe, from nations that my parents’ generation
fought, their statues briefly controversial, then forgotten.
Back at the pond, a painted turtle basks on a rock
and the herons have not begun to grow impatient.
Susanna Lang’s most recent collection of poems is Tracing the Lines (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2013). Her first collection, Even Now, was published by The Backwaters Press (2008). Her poems and translations from the French have appeared in such journals as Little Star, New Letters, Poetry East, Prime Number Magazine, Blue Lyra Review, and december. She lives in Chicago, where she teaches in the Chicago Public Schools.