Six pelicans crossing blue sky
surprise me, each pair of wings rising
and falling at angles unlike the others,
as if to row their skiff across the air,
all the eyes scanning the sea.
Then they’re lower, and the dark wings
flatten for coasting—the harmony of them!—
forty miles an hour,
a child’s height above the water.
They find a rail, hover a moment,
and land light as moths in a June breeze,
tiptoe dancers, pelican pirouettes,
except for two off-balance clowns
pounding at air as if the planet had jerked.
On the bait shop’s dock they sit and grin,
seven pounds apiece. Their cores
are boulders in some ancient myth,
and gray feathers, etched in rows
of slight curves, could be a script.
Who combed those lines?
What language is it?
The eyes neither stare nor look away
as the beak’s long blade tucks itself
against the sheath of neck. Pelican
gets some joke and isn’t sharing.
He isn’t leaving either.
He knows the ocean’s full of food,
and he’s especially confident today.
What he holds in his pouch
squirms. He waits. He’s got all day.
John Hazard has had poetry appear widely in magazines, including Ploughshares, Poetry, Shenandoah, Slate, Gettysburg Review, Ascent, Atticus Review, Carolina Quarterly, New Ohio Review, Harpur Palate, New Ohio Review, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. His 2015 book of poetry is Naming a Stranger (Aldrich Press).