Today's poems are by Anne McCrary Sullivan

Holding On

I am thinking of them tonight, locked in their embrace,
waters dark and cold. Do they have any warmth
to give each other? Late yesterday, near exhaustion,
they lay in the slough overhung with reed and pond apple,
motionless—gator's jaws clamped on to the python's thick
muscle, python wrapped around the gator's rough trunk.
It started early, morning light slicing water. The python
coiled and writhed, head waving above the fight. The gator
wrestled, then backed from the slough, submerged and swam
through open water—a gator drowns its prey—
but when he surfaced, the python's head lifted, stared him in the eye.
All day it went like that, slough to slough, diving and surfacing,
positions shifting, python wrapped around the gator's snout,
then a lurch, python in the gator's mouth but the head
still lifting. What respect they must have for each other by now.
Neither lets go. Neither is winning. They aren't even fighting.
They lie in the dark and hold on.

Anhinga Pairing

When the male anhinga's bright blue eye ring comes,
when he displays his fine feathers, raising his tail,
waving the wings, she begins to pay attention.
Then they swoop and glide together
near the nesting area—preen together, lifting
and fluffing feathers, rubbing each other's bills.
But they are not a pair until he finds the perfect
twig, offers it to her and she accepts.

Last year we saw him offer a twig, and she took it.
Even as we were all saying "Ahhh ..." she lifted
that stick and hit him in the head with it, flew away.

Acceptance means something. And when she does
accept, they become monogamous in a bond that lasts
several years.
What I haven't been able to learn
is how they go about separation. Is it mutual, a sort of inherent
biological timing? Or does one just leave? And for the other,
is there grief?

Copyright © 2004 Anne McCrary Sullivan All rights reserved
from Southern Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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