In the Golden Hour, Cormorants

We first noticed the cormorant late afternoon,

the golden hour just before dusk,

black feathers and kinked neck,

a thin hooked bill, perched

on a piling facing the house as though

watching the oxygen tanks unloaded

from the back of a truck, the wheelchair

we carried up the front stairs.


The next day there were more,

diving deep beneath the docks, feeding

for hours before coming to rest

one after another on pilings

until every one was taken.

A silent chorus, in their black robes,

and as the time we’d been given

shortened to a few days they offered comfort,


a belief that as long as they stayed

she wouldn’t die, even as she refused

pudding, sweet tea, turned her face to the wall

as we moistened her lips with a wet cloth.

The last day was quiet, the water still

until her final breath when wind

suddenly kicked up. I watched

as they rose in unison, heading south

as though ushering her away.


I wished them safe harbor.

I wish them safe return.

Poet, teacher, and editor, Cheryl Baldi is the author of The Shapelessness of Water and a former Pennsylvania Poet Laureate. A finalist for the Robert Fraser Award for Poetry and the Francis Locke Memorial Award, she is widely published, most recently in ONE ART: a journal for poetry. She volunteers for the Bucks County Poet Laureate Program and the Arts and Cultural Council and lives in Doylestown, PA and along the coast in New Jersey.