The pelican hasn’t been around for a couple of days, and we miss his akimbo dives into the pond, surfacing and throwing his head back to show he’s swallowing his catch even though we suspect some of the time he caught nothing at all, but knowing we’re as gullible an audience as he is likely to find any time soon. We hope he is off breeding somewhere, making little pelicans that will be able to entertain us next fall when we return, birds of our own sort, not snowy egrets but snow birds nonetheless. We don’t want to know any more about the mating ritual, some things ought to be private. We learned that painful a few years ago, when my brother thought it was important we see thoroughbreds bred. We prefer our breedings like good French films, suggestive but ultimately leaving it to our memory, like so much of our youth.
They leap from the walls, they are in your face as you approach. You don’t know what to expect and that is precisely how they wish it. Still, you don’t tire of them, and you don’t recoil, but stare more intently. They engage you, defy you and welcome in the same moment, and you only want to follow them deep within the cinder block, the plaster, and take up residence alongside them, and from afar, the mural artists smile.
Hell is a place where what you least desire becomes eternally yours, or so we were told as children, well not us, not the Jewish kids, for us Hell was our mothers’ finding that copy of Playboy we stole from our father’s stash our mother didn’t know about, and which he would deny, throwing us under the bus or any large vehicle she found
If we buy into Hell, and given that ours is an aging population, many of whom have landed in Florida and Arizona to avoid the winters that are hell on the ubiquitous arthritis, and all those who have joyously consumed the evangelical Kool-Aid, when the final bell rings, they may be surprised to discover there is far, far more of a chance of a snowball in Hell.
In the midst of this pandemic
everyone, it seems, is offering
playlists and lists of movies
to watch during the endless
days of isolation, and so long
as the internet goes on, we may
die of viral complications, yes,
but not of boredom soon.
I have aggregated the various
lists, stricken movies far too close
to home, Andromeda Strain, Contagion, now isn’t the time
for that deep dive into irony,
and with blue pencil in hand,
I’ve written in, then crossed out A Field of Dreams, for sitting
in the home we built, we know
those we wish would, will not
come, and dread that COVID might.
There is always that moment when I stand stock-still, afraid to move, the poised camera a lead weight on my hands, arms emaciated hammocks dangling from shoulders inviting something that will not come into focus.
The Great Blue heron, who is the sole focus of my attention, stares at me, or through or perhaps past me, with a patience I try failingly to emulate, knowing I will look away, lower the camera, see an egret, an ibis, someone who will give me pause, and the heron will take flight and I with twitch of finger will capture that place that she so recently occupied.
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She parked her cart across the face of the bin, she fills the only gap. She has a look of determination that says “give me space if you know what’s good for you.” She examines each banana with the care of it gemologist and you imagine that she wears a loop. She pulls bunches apart, finally picking one, then five minutes later the line behind her in awe and frustration, another one. There is almost a third, until as she places it in her cart she sees something beyond our comprehension, and back it goes amid the host of rejectees. I glanced at my watch, realize how long I have been on this few item shop and grab three of her misbegotten, then seeing her head for the grapes, make my own mad dash to get there first, so I might get home for dinner.
He circles carefully constantly adjusting altitude expanding and contracting his orbits in great increments. His each move is calculated that much is obvious. And you watch him with a deep fascination. You are not the only watcher this day, at this time, others peer up as he plunges downward breaking the surface, his head appearing, thrown back, consuming what ever it is he plucked. While I stand watching the anhinga on the shore of the pond makes it clear he finds the pelican the least graceful of all his distant kin.
We pull in to the parking lot where our mailboxes are arrayed like so many graves at Arlington, or more like the drawers in a low cost mausoleum.
This is the new Postal Service, sharing the burden of the need to cut costs even at the expense of services.
Standing nearby are two Sandhill Cranes watching the postal worker carefully unload the trays of mail and buckets of packages, soon to be slotted and eventually carried away.
The birds stare at us, knowing it seems that they are protected, and we need to walk and drive around them, for they have no intention of yielding ground to us, certain they were here first and they say they tolerate us only barely, and if we doubt that, they will explain in pointed detail with their beaks.
We walk around them and wonder how they would hope to open the metal box where any mail they might receive will soon enough be deposited.