Eight years old, he loves water,
knows streams, lakes,
the separate vegetations
of still and moving waters.
He has marked them turn brown
the few seasons of his winters.

He has in his mind the names of waterbirds,
mallard, swan, moorhen;
he discovers and murmurs
their incantatory syllables.

He counts shadows of trout
hovering in water.

In a miracle of April
he walks by the river
collecting with his eyes
what the weather brings.

Mild rain polishes
the skins of new leaves.

A visitation of swallows,
wet, exhausted,
drops out of the hot countries.

Among white raindrops
they cling to the twigs
of a leafless birch tree.
Vulnerable warm bundles,
red-throated,
they flick their glossy wings,
do not fly
from the boy’s unmoving intensity.

He holds every feather
in his memory, in the diffused
light shining
through waterdrops.

Warm air carries
the boy’s regard
for the swallows,
for the little tree,
black nubs ready for leafing.

Come in, child, come in.
The circle is made.

—Leslie Norris

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 10 Number 3, on page 52
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