Once as I travelled through a quiet evening,
I saw a pool, jet-black and mirror-still.
Beyond, the slender paperbarks stood crowding;
each on its own white image looked its fill,
and nothing moved but thirty egrets wading –
thirty egrets in a quiet evening.

Once in a lifetime, lovely past believing,
your lucky eyes may light on such a pool.
As though for many years I had been waiting,
I watched in silence, till my heart was full
of clear dark water, and white trees unmoving,
and, whiter yet, those thirty egrets wading.


This poem runs around the edge of the turtle pond at the central park zoo, in New York City. The pond is a delicate, unpretentious place, with no fancy animals or exhibits. Just some water, a few unassuming freshwater fish, and turtles. Most people just slide through, glance around, and slide off again. It’s ny favorite place in the whole zoo, because it’s the quietest.

(Photo from