anne pierson wiese

Profile of the Night Heron

In the Brooklyn Botanic Garden the night
heron is on his branch of his tree, blue
moon curve of his body riding low
above the pond, leaves dipping into water
beneath him, green and loose as fingers.
On the far shore, the ibis is where
I left him last time, a black cypher
on his rock. These birds, they go to the right
place every day until they die.

There are people like that in the city,
with signature hats or empty attaché cases,
expressions of private absorption fending
off comment, who attach to physical
locations—a storefront, a stoop, a corner,
a bench—and appear there daily as if for a job.
They negotiate themselves into the pattern
of place, perhaps wiping windows, badly,
for a few bucks, clearing the stoop of take-out
menus every morning, collecting the trash
at the base of the walk/don’t walk sign
and depositing it in the garbage can.

Even when surfaces change, when the Mom & Pop
store becomes a coffee bar, when the park
benches are replaced with dainty chairs and a pebble
border, they stay, noticing what will never change:
the heartprick of longitude and latitude
to home in on, the conviction that life
depends, every day, on what outlasts you.


Anne Pierson Wiese

"Everything but God," Anne Pierson Wiese

In Europe you can see cathedrals
from far away. As you drive toward them
across the country they are visible—stony
and roosted on the land—even before the towns
that surround them. In New York you come
upon them with no warning, turn a corner
and there one is: on 5th Avenue St. Patrick’s,
spiny and white as a shell in a gift shop; dark
St. Agnes lost near a canal and some housing
projects in Brooklyn; or St. John the Divine,
listed in every guidebook yet seeming always
like a momentary vision on Amsterdam
Avenue, with its ragged halo of trees, wide stone
steps ascending directly out of traffic.

Lately I have found myself unable
to pass by. The candles’ anonymous
wishes waver and flame near the entrance, bright
numerous, transitory and eternal
as a migration: the birds that fly away
are never exactly the same as those that return.
The gray, flowering arches’ ribs rise
until they fade, the bones so large and old
they belong to an undetected time
on earth. Here and there people’s small backs
in prayer, the windowed saints’ robes’ orchid
glow, the shadows—ghosts of a long nocturnal
snow from a sky below when we did not yet
exist, with our questions tender as burns.