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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 23: 28 April 2024
Poems: 104; 70; and
85 words
By Roy J. Beckemeyer

Three Vignettes After Elaine Soulé’s
Photograph Great Egret Departing


Great Egret Departing: Photograph by Elaine Soulé
Great Egret Departing (photograph) by Elaine Soulé

Copyrighted © by the artist. All rights reserved.
Image appears here with her permission.



[1] Great Egret Caressing Air
She raises her wings, becomes 
clipper under sail, all white canvas 
unfurling, the downstroke wrapping 
pinions and coverts, tufts of down 
and shafts of feather into a cupped
and billowing shape, wings and their 
reflections caressing a sphere of air, 
an invisible snowball of swirl and 
compression that grows with each 
wing stroke, with every flap, her flight 
feathers responding to push and pull, 
perceiving the sky’s breathing as if 
they were fingers fondling a face, 
coming to know atmosphere’s every 
intimate twirl and twitch, wings and air 
now a continuum, a singular assemblage, 
an entity ineluctably destined for flight. 



[2] Constituent Parts
The great egret in all her diverse 
and lovely component elements—
simple levered and hinged legs, 
smoothly articulated vertebrae 
informing inventively flexible neck, 
tear-drop body shaped by pectoral 
girdle, sheathed and shingled 
in white down, wings intricately 
stiff and pliable, complexly curved, 
simultaneously impermeable 
and absorbent, sheet-like and vaned, 
beak sword-bladed and scissored— 
she wades and turns, peers and veers, 
and darts and erupts and flaps 
and flies. 



[3] Water Like a Looking Glass
We have shadows—water birds  
have reflections, thus achieving 
a higher aesthetic state wading 
than we ever could standing, 
watching from shore or bank. 
This great egret, hinged legs barely 
bent, wings sweeping down, caught 
in the initial stage of her finest act, 
lifting herself from water’s tenuous 
grasp, earth’s tugging hold, revealing, 
clasped between wings and reflection, 
the shape and form of her transparent 
soul, the contours and curvatures 
of her inmost being, her expansive, 
her yearning heart. 



*Author’s Acknowledgment:

Thanks to my sister, Elaine Soulé, Photographer Extraordinaire, for allowing me to riff off her remarkable photo of this lovely bird at the instant of its lifting into flight.

Elaine Soulé
Issue 23 (April 2024)

began her journey into photography in her late 20s, when she pursued an Associate of Arts degree in Photography at Chabot College in Hayward, California. After working in the corporate world for 40 years, she returned to photography in her 70s. She loves the creative freedom that digital cameras allow and finds photography these days to be a totally different but truly exhilarating experience.

Roy J. Beckemeyer’s
Issue 23 (April 2024)

poetry collections include The Currency of His Light (Turning Plow Press, 2023) and Mouth Brimming Over (Blue Cedar Press, 2019). Stage Whispers (Meadowlark Books, 2018) won the 2019 Nelson Poetry Book Award. Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) comprises ekphrastic poems inspired by modern artists’ depictions of angels. His first book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014), was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. With Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, he co-edited Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, 2017). His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize (2015, 2020, and 2024) and for Best of the Net (2018), and was selected for The Best Small Fictions 2019.

A retired engineer and scientific journal editor, Beckemeyer is also a nature photographer who, in his spare time, researches the mechanics of insect flight and the Paleozoic insect fauna of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Alabama. He lives in Wichita, Kansas, where he and his wife recently celebrated their 62nd anniversary.

Please visit author’s website for more information about his books, as well as links to selected works, and to interviews and readings (scroll down his About page for the latter link-list).

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