by shaindel beers
4. The young man and his friends float the river the Fourth of July Downstream are parade sounds neighing of horses marching bands salvos of gunfire Here, there is only the river soft lap of water against the inner tube The peace only occasionally interrupted by an Oh shit! when a raft scuffs a rock gets hung up on a branch Miraculously, the pelicans sit still on the rocks inspecting from ice blue eyes on either side of long beaks Their heads tilt this way and that but otherwise they are unmoved by these creatures the only ones larger than they who float downstream The young man has the odd feeling he has never been so close to another breathing thing He looks into the ice blue of the pelican’s eye as he floats by thinks of the day his eye drew this much attention Hiding under the bill of his cap eye surrounded by magenta bruise, fidgeting to the rhythm of fluorescent light flicker the professor asking My God, what happened? He recalls the feel of the lie slipping out of his mouth A baseball I didn’t catch
We come home with the groceries, and I see
the slow V of pelicans floating over the neighborhood
try to tell if they are tracing the river.
I’ve heard they are one of the few bird species
that fly “for fun.” I wonder what that means,
try to imagine what it must feel like
to soar on thermals for up to fifteen miles
without flapping a wing, to climb the pillows
of hot air, drop down into coolness
to gain speed. This is called dynamic soaring.
I didn’t used to be so fascinated by anything
but now, I pull out my phone, try to record them.
They are immortalized as radar blips over
my neighbors’ chimney; in the background
my dog barks, my son is excited to be allowed
to run to the porch by himself. How could anything
be so effortless? I wonder what I might miss
if I were afforded their abilities, their innate sense
of measuring air temperature through their nostrils,
of spotting a single fish from sixty feet above water—
All I can imagine missing is the grey house
with its hot pink door which I drive by every day.