Vox Populi

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Edward Harkness: Pelicans Diving

They skim so close to waves

they must themselves be waves.

Their wingtips kiss the swells.

Then they climb, arm muscles

synced with shoulder muscles

sheathed in flight feathers back-

drafted to lift them high

enough to plumb their own

reflections. It’s the gift

of penetrating sight:

to catch the glint of skin,

a sudden seething school.

From that height, they hover

for a heartbeat, no more.

The cudgels of their bills

aimed, wings drawn sleek, they dive

angled like incoming

missiles to shatter  

the placid blue window

of warped glass. A plume sprays

up, their prey stunned and scooped.

The world’s a carnivore.

You might not imagine

so, seeing pelicans

at rest dockside, afloat

offshore or on postcards,

where they have the comic 

look of balding scholars.

The hunger for beauty’s

glittering skin requires

blasting through surfaces

with force, snatching the wild

living prize of the hunt,

then to assume a state

of zen-like quietude,

as if life and death are 

two separate species, 

different as sea and sky.

There’s a ferocity

in the art of nature,

an illusory calm

in the nature of art.

When they glide, pelicans

are all effortless grace,

untouched by gravity

above the curled white crests.

When they plunge to capture

what they need, the silly

scholars become killers.

Copyright 2023 Edward Harkness

The Law of the Unforeseen, Edward Harkness’ third full-length collection of poems was published by Pleasure Boat Studio. He lives with his wife, Linda, in Shoreline, Washington. 

California’s brown pelicans are one of only two pelican species in the world that dive for fish. L F File/Shutterstock

2 comments on “Edward Harkness: Pelicans Diving

  1. Barbara Huntington
    March 7, 2023

    And I think of the hawk chasing a dove into my window. Dove down. Dazed red shouldered hawk on Neighbor’s roof. Life and death, dinner, dependent on who recovers first.


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This entry was posted on March 7, 2023 by in Environmentalism, Poetry and tagged , , , , .

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