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By: Susanna Brougham

Looking at nothing and beginning to see something: not a bad place to start. I was on Cape Cod, with a day to spare before attending—what else?—a writing workshop. So I took a dune buggy ride over the crests and dips of sand, and found myself jounced and well juddered before the driver stopped the jalopy and said a good word: Look.

A nondescript marsh. A place where everything seemed background to no particular foreground. Subdued colors and silence.

Then it became a realm of detail—many individual elements to pick out for notice, and among them, the figure of a heron. Steel-gray and slight, it blended so harmoniously with its surroundings that it was hard to parse one from the other. It was nearly invisible, and it was busy. Whatever that creature needed was beneath the surface. The beak was focused delicately toward the water. The bird would move a bit on its stick legs and take a long pause, then do the same again.

Before long I felt immersed in this scene, in the purposeful yet discreet progress of the heron. The more I looked, the more it seemed to offer. The bird almost disappeared into the setting yet I found that it also possessed great distinction. It seemed enviably focused, confident that it would find what it needed by engaging with this particular patch of habitat. Yet it also seemed dedicated to locating something that remained elusive. It was suited to seeking.

As you can see, I am no naturalist. It did not take long for disciplined five-senses observation to shift, and I started to read my own concerns into this creature of nature. And then another shift—the heron was the presence of a person much missed.

And it wasn’t. I knew the fact of the matter, yet the emotion and conviction were not diminished by my knowledge.

This experience stayed with me for a long time. Then it worked itself into a poem. I feel a little foolish, telling you where it came from. A poem seems to arrive from nowhere. Yes, it does, and it doesn’t.

I was particularly pleased when The Potomac Review accepted this poem for Issue 52. It creates a “home” for it, among several pieces of beautifully presented creative writing. I’m pretty sure it’s happy with its new neighbors.


Susanna Brougham’s poem, “Watching for my Father,” appears in Issue 52 of The Potomac Review.  Stop by the office or MC Books for your copy.  Also, you can easily order it online. Watch for details of the launch party, which will feature local writers from both Issue 52 and Best of  50.

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