The Guiding Heron


[Odysseus and Diomedes on a night-spying expedition to the Trojan camp]

“Athena winged a heron close to their path

and veering right. Neither man could see it,

scanning the dark night they only heard its cry”

(Iliad , Book 10)

So the voice of the goddess comes in the night
unearthly as if far away, but close;
echoing through the unfathomable dark, but whispered

as if a lover told a secret close to your ear
and you reply just as softly yet speaking clearly:
‘O goddess I answer your call’

into the darkness of the night, no light,
even starlight (fitful behind cloud) and not
moonlight  for it is moondark, so dark

the voice, the heron’s call in the night:
a creak, a croak, a fraink, not sweet
like a songbird but a guiding sign to be wary

a waymark on the path, showing the track
to be taken, the line to follow through the gloom,
impenetrable blackness unimaginable in towns, villages

even where some distant gleam lightens the hue
of darkness, but out here in the ancient dark
her piercing cry is the only glint to guide you

coldly calling from empty space, but welcome
as the sigh of a mother to a feeding child, nurturing
sharp-eared attention, opening your night eyes.


Author: Greg Hill

Awenydd/Poet, Cultural Critic

One thought on “The Guiding Heron”

  1. Love your description of the heron’s voice here, their calls are really captivating and reality altering, aren’t they? Wonderful picture too.

    Is Athena associated with herons in any other sources?

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