Great blue heron in flight over ocean and beach

Why We Have Blue

By Rob Carney

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Old Roads, New Stories: A Literary Series


Why We Have Blue

I could tell you a heron
tows the sky from night to day,

or that herons
pull the clouds along,

ferrying rain to a harbor town
where a boy is missing his dad.

Maybe he’s twelve now,
or seven,

and this town has a woman
catching storms in buckets,

and she uses that water
to wash her corners clean

because cobwebs, because
wind-dust, because always

the world returns
with its same too much,

but you wouldn’t believe me;
herons are birds not stories.

And the sky doesn’t move;
who ever thought that it did?


Come watch the boy for a minute;
he’s riding a bike.

Or he’s kicking a rock while he walks.
Or since rain

hasn’t soaked beneath a tree
there’s still a cloud-head dandelion dry enough.

Noises go on all around him:
the shush of tires,

of cars passing by
on wet roadways,  

and dogs so constantly barking
that you don’t even hear.

And, yes, there are smells of course,
just further in the background.

Like the smell
of spring-almost-over:

mix of sun, chlorine,
and arguments starting.

Watch the boy while he grabs it.
Blows the parachute-white away.


The heron is great.
And it’s blue.

But it isn’t
bringing a message.

On nights that the moon goes missing,
it only knows it’s dark.


No, it’s stories we’ve got
and keep telling. Stories

to seem less wingless.
Stories to turn

our necks around
and look where we went wrong.


Take the storm—
it’s still there behind us in the harbor,

and the woman
dips a plain blue cup in a bucket.

Do you know how it tastes
to drink rain in the morning . . .

not a drop
that rolls down your cheek,

a whole body-full?
Maybe you can answer Yes like her.

Or wish you could


because seven,

because wind-dust,

because kicking a rock down the sidewalk,

because it isn’t just tires that shush, and you don’t need rain

to come along and whisper It’s too late. You’ll live it all over again, 

but with different and fewer people.

Because sky.

Because heron.

Because the sky doesn’t move when the heron moves.

Because whether it’s a harbor or a mountain town.

Because missing,

and mix up,

and rain.


Or else I could tell you
that the boy looked up, and when he did,

the heron was towing in sunlight.
I could tell you he knows more than fights

and knows that summer
is a different kind of blue,

that it has no gray
in its feathers.

I could tell you the name of the harbor,
or make one up less matter-of-fact.

I could say It’s time for the bonfire to start.
And we could go.



Rob CarneyRob Carney’s new books Facts and Figures and The Last Tiger is Somewhere are available from Hoot ‘n’ Waddle and Unsolicited Press. Previous books include The Book of Sharks and 88 Maps. His first collection of creative nonfiction, Accidental Gardens, is forthcoming from Stormbird Press.
Read Rob Carney’s Letter to America in Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy, published by and Trinity University Press.
Read poetry by Rob Carney appearing in 6th Annual Contest Finalist, 4th Annual Contest Winner, and Issue 30. And listen to an interview on Montana Public Radio about The Book of Sharks.

Header photo by Steve Bower, courtesy ShutterstockRob Rob . is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.