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The Heron’s Bride

Weighed in the ballroom
dancing and found wanting,
a would-be coquette
wishing she’d a pocket-
handkerchief, preferably
of scarlet, polka-
dotted with white, such as
the gentlemen use
for resounding blows
and achoos of a noise
to rival the brazen
trumpet, not the scrappet
of lace tucked up her sleeve,
having no-one’s leave
to ask, stepped out upon
the balcony. A heron,
quite as elegant
as any gentleman
indoors in evening threads,
sleek and not ill-fed
on frogs who were not princes
washed down with minnows,
seeing her silhouetted
against the windows
alighted, unafraid,
and addressed her thus:
“Madam, I am but
a humble wader
bred on a backwater
while you undoubtedly
are a duchess’s daughter.
However, since it seems


your love is unrequited,
I should be delighted
with the pleasure of a flight
into the falling night.
Do but climb astride
(if you’ll forgive the phrase)
my back and let my wide
grey wings carry you away.
My house, though in a swamp,
I assure you is not damp
and why should we a moment
longer waste in talking
when we could be stalking
even now, knee-deep
through silent shining streams?”
She lifted up the hem
of her oyster-coloured gown
while courteously he crouched down
and without a backward glance
for them by whom
she had been scorned,
accepted his advance
and climbed aboard. The horned
moon rose on the lagoon
and leaving her guardian
aunts – alas! – behind,
she felt his wings unfold
and lift her where the world
of dance-cards nevermore
would cross her mind.
He speeds and leads
her to his palace in the reeds.


John Gibbens

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