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Sample Poems by Anne McCrary Sullivan

Holding On

I’m 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 onto 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,
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?

Protected: The Pied-billed Grebe

See how she alters her own specific gravity,
bobs on the surface then submerges,
swims long underwater, safe, invisible?

She gulps down jointed bodies of crayfish,
armored beetles, bony fish, then swallows
the protection of her own molted feathers.

Her stomach churns with soft and sharp
till all that is hard and indigestible
rises, floats, a down-tufted ball.

When her chicks are newly hatched,
they leave the nest, climb onto her, tuck
themselves between the wing and …

grebe-fur they called it, those 19th century hunters
and milliners, skin with thick insulating
feathers, perfect for coats and capes.

I Came To The Everglades with A Grief

This is what I have learned: weeping for beauty
replaces weeping for grief. Stunned at first
by the blue heron’s crest, the purple gallinule’s
iridescence, grief now creeps as surely forward
as this subtle river of grass flows south.

It goes about its quiet work stealthy
as the yellow panther in the understory,
necessary, as everything here is necessary
each to the other in a complex ecology.

Yesterday, only once I felt it moving. It lifted
like a bird from the expanse of sawgrass,
startled me. I had stopped looking for it.

This grief is learning to ride the anhinga, glide
and flap through forgiving air. It lands in bark-stained
water, dives beneath the surface, swims—I see it there,
indistinct shape, a quivering blur. On the bank,

the gator’s black back stretched in sun
amazes me, makes me think that I can touch
a fine living leather with claws and teeth.