Where the estuary suddenly narrows
and the river begins its slow bends
through the valley, white smoke is drifting
from a thicket of trees where egrets roost.
The birds are rising, like sudden flags
fluttered, bright cloths flung into the air,
their dry, rattling calls echoing
across the empty river just at its flow.
Above where the sage hills become lilac
mountains, beyond where the invaders
ever went, high on the summer pastures
with the sheep fattening for the valley,