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Five specks in V-formation move in smooth
approach. The sun transmits a flushed alarm,
thin flames of tangerine among the crests.
The small fleet coasts our way and scouts above
us where we wade in fish-ripe waves, our heads

thrown back, our mouths agape. We point at beaks
of fossil-gray that rest on folded necks.
We wonder at the feathered frames as stout
as tanks but somehow weightless on the wind.
We laud the continental wingspans. Not

an engine’s drone but stoic silence marks
the pelicans’ advance. One breaks away
and glides in freefall, locked in on its mark.
The hunter moves with memory beyond
its lifespan. But what of the ancient lore

that when its food was scarce the pelican
would use its beak to open up its breast
and feed its chicks with its own blood? Some said
the bird could bring its young from death
to life with this self-sacrificial gift.

This bird does not know what we know: that Life
is lord of death, as Whittier says, what’s lost
redeemed already by one gift of Self.
Just yards from where we stand, the stoic dives
and opens up the sea with tactical

indifference, extracting with its beak
a silver splinter from the ocean’s palm
then settling on the surf. The neck extends.
The beak jerks up toward the sky, a move
that looks like laughter but means death for one

sleek speckled trout. Scales tip and glint: the fish
contorts in one innate attempt to flee
until the pelican achieves its win
then opens windworn wings and lifts its bulk,
unhaunted by its sacred heritage.

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Lesley Clinton

Lesley Clinton has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women (NFPW), Press Women of Texas, and the Poetry Society of Texas. Her chapbook of poems, Calling the Garden from the Grave (Finishing Line Press), won 2nd place among books of verse in the NFPW 2020 Communications Contest. In 2019 Lesley received the Lucille Johnson Clarke Memorial award from the Houston Poetry Fest. Lesley’s book reviews have been published or forthcoming in America Magazine and Christianity and Literature, and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in publications such as THINK, Mezzo Cammin, The Windhover, Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry, Grotto, and Ekstasis Magazine. Lesley has a Master of Arts in Teaching. She teaches high school English and is Editor in Chief of The Chronicle of Strake Jesuit College Preparatory.