Ghost Heron

Fiction by Jack B. Bedell

The old soul wakes in the top of its cypress tree, beak tucked under wing. It readies its bones for flight knowing the sun will stretch fingers over the horizon line soon.

Bare branches let all the cold into its nest this time of year, but the old soul does not mind the way this body creaks. It just pulls itself into the air and climbs high enough to see the sky purple over the lake.

***

Every mile of ground below it reminds the soul of work it’s left behind—canals dug, cast nets yanked in full, porches built and weighed down by stories.

Water has seeped into everything, though, and it’s difficult for memories to stand up tall enough to be counted.

***

The swamp only flows one way for this old soul. North along the abandoned railway, straight toward a single dock facing east.

The old soul lands softly and steps to the edge of the wood slats to watch the sun rise above the trees again. It spreads its wings wide to catch every bit of warmth the sun has to offer.

***

Behind the old soul, the house begins to wake toward its kitchen. A small boy’s voice will beg for cereal, a girl’s for biscuits and gravy. A tired mother will pump water for her coffee, put the Dripolator onto the stove, and look out at the sky blooming above her dock.

These eyes on the old soul’s back are prickles of ecstasy stirring each feather, but it knows it cannot turn around. Even a stolen glance would turn this body to mist, and the whole cycle would have to be learned again with new bones, earth to sky.

<strong>Jack B. Bedell</strong>
Jack B. Bedell

is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. Jack’s work has appeared in Southern ReviewPidgeonholesThe ShoreOkay DonkeyEcoTheoThe HopperTerrain, and other journals. His latest collection is Color All Maps New (Mercer University Press, spring 2021). He served as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019. 

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